The Ultimate Guide to Tick Paralysis (everything you need to know)

Estimated Reading Time: 2 min | Last Updated: May 5th, 2022

A paralysis tick hidden in a dog's fur

Paralysis ticks are a silent but deadly killer, and unfortunately Australia’s climate is the perfect breeding ground for them.

Animal Emergency Service (AES) is one of Queensland’s leading hospitals when it comes to treating tick paralysis. Dr Rob Webster, a registered specialist in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care, is not only one of the founders of AES, but also a member of the Australian Paralysis Tick Advisory Panel. Dr Rob and the AES team have treated tens of thousands of patients suffering from tick paralysis over the last two decades.

This guide on tick paralysis provides information on the dangers of ticks, how to know if your pet has been affected and practical tips on keeping your pet safe during tick season.

What You Need To Know

What are paralysis ticks?

The paralysis tick (ixodes holocyclus) is a small eight-legged, egg-shaped arachnid, approximately 3-5mm in length. Their appearance does vary depending on their life-stage.

While only small they are a dangerous parasite that injects a potentially fatal toxin (holocyclotoxin) into the bloodstream while feeding on mammals, both native and domestic animals. This toxin can lead to a number of symptoms, causing severe illness and can potentially result in death. It is important to note both dogs and cats can be affected, however native animals are not.

Where can paralysis ticks be found?

Paralysis ticks are found along coastal parts of central and southern Queensland as well as coastal New South Wales. Towards the north, paralysis ticks can be found all year-round, while further south tick season generally begins in winter (August) and finishes in late spring (November). However, this is not a set period. For example, tick season may start earlier if the winter is milder than usual.

Australia is the most diverse country in the world for ticks, with over 70 species, several of which look like the paralysis tick but are actually harmless. It is recommended that if a tick is found on your pet, you should quickly visit your vet to identify the species.

The paralysis tick is common in woodlands and grasslands. Cats and dogs will be exposed to ticks if they go anywhere which is frequented by wild animals, including bandicoots and possums. While they don’t fly or jump, they will climb or drop onto a pet’s coat when they brush past where the tick is sitting.

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