Paralysis Ticks and Your Pet

What is tick paralysis?

Australia – especially southeast Queensland – is home to one of the most deadly species of parasite, Ixodes holocyclus, commonly known as the Paralysis Tick.

These opportunistic parasites can be found everywhere, from the bush to our own backyards, and will attach themselves to our cats and dogs in order to feed on their blood. While doing this the ticks inject a deadly toxin via their saliva. This toxin can cause life-threatening paralysis in dogs and cats within a matter of hours to days if not treated.

Here at My Local Vet, we unfortunately see a number of tick paralysis cases every year. While we see a larger number of tick paralysis cases in the hotter, wetter months, paralysis ticks are active all year round.

What symptoms do affected animals show?

The symptoms associated with tick paralysis can be quite variable, and the early stages of the disease they can be easily missed. Furthermore, the symptoms of tick paralysis can be delayed – we may see these signs developing or worsening for up to 24 hours AFTER the tick has died or been removed from the animal.

In the early stages of tick paralysis, animals may demonstrate any of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing, retching, or regurgitating
  • A change in their breathing patterns
  • Weakness or wobbliness in the back legs (an un-coordinated walk)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A change in the sound of their bark or meow
  • Difficulty blinking

In later stages of the disease, we see:

  • Severe breathing difficulties (due to paralysis of the breathing muscles)
  • Paralysis of the limbs and body (a partial or total inability to stand or move)
  • Death

If you are concerned that your dog is demonstrating any of the above signs, please contact us immediately on (07) 3824 7788

Time is critical when it comes to treating tick paralysis. If you think your pet has a tick, or is showing signs of tick paralysis, the first thing you should do is pick up the phone and give us a call. Tick paralysis is treatable, but we must act quickly – the faster we can start treatment, the better the outcome for your furry loved one.

How can I keep my pet safe?

The three most important things you can do to keep your pets safe from tick paralysis are:

  1. Have them on a tick preventative product all year round. Here at My Local Vet, we recommend Bravecto as the safest and most effective tick preventative for both cats and dogs. Please contact us if you need more help in choosing the best product for your pet’s needs.
  2. Check for ticks daily! Run your hands over your pet every day, focusing on warm nooks and crannies like the space between their toes or under their collar, to check for ticks.
  3. Be aware! Keep the symptoms of tick paralysis in your mind, and act quickly if you suspect your animal might be affected.

Ticks are an unfortunate part of Australian life, but by following these simple recommendations, we can keep our furry loved ones safe!

My cat is urinating outside the litter tray

As part of a thorough health check, I always ask my clients about common behaviour problems they may be experiencing at home. The most common problem reported to me is that the cat urinates outside the litter tray. I often hear the comment “he only does this when he is mad with us”. There are some small changes that can be made to the litter tray setup that will often resolve the problem behaviour and also make for a happier and more relaxed kitty.

These are my top tips for overhauling your litter tray setup and creating a great toileting experience for your kitty.

1. Make sure you have enough trays

You should have one tray for each cat, and then a spare tray. This means that one cat should have two trays available.

2. Put the trays in an appropriate location

The trays should each be in a separate location, two trays in the one spot is just the same as one big tray. Trays should be placed in a quiet location, away from a thoroughfare and away from anything too noisy like a washing machine.

3. Make sure the trays are large enough

Many commercial litter trays are not large enough for the average sized cat. Your trays should be 1.5 X the length of your cat at least. For some cats, this means getting a bit creative. An underbed storage container can make a great litter tray, and is readily available.

4. Keep the trays clean

Once a litter tray is soiled, most cats will not use it. Faeces and urine should be scooped out daily, and the whole tray should be cleaned twice per week. Make sure to use a gentle detergent that doesn’t smell too strongly.

5. Use a litter substrate that is appealing to your cat

Most cats become quite fussy with the litter substrate they like in their trays. Sticking to the same litter, if this works for your cat is the best thing to do. If you have adopted an adult cat, try to use a litter substrate that they are used to. If you are unsure what they have used in the past you may need to trial a few different types to find out what they like.

6. Seek veterinary advice!

If your kitty has issues urinating outside the tray, this may indicate a medical problem. It is best to have your cat assessed by a vet to rule these causes out before embarking on a plan that is right for you and your cat. Your vet will be best able to assess your individual situation and make recommendations to best help you. Seeking help sooner rather than later will give you the best chance of fixing this issue.

Heat Stress

Queensland summers are hot, and each year here at My Local Vet we see a number of cases of heat stress. Heat stress, if left untreated can cause organ damage or it can even be fatal. It essential to know the signs of heat stress so you can seek veterinary assistance before  serious damage occurs.  

Do dogs sweat? 

Unlike humans, dogs do not rely on sweating to regulate their temperature. Dogs regulate their temperature primarily through panting. They also have a small number of sweat glands on their paws that they can lose heat through. When a dog is unable to lose sufficient heat through these mechanisms they can develop heat stress.  

What is heat stress? 

Heat stress occurs when the body’s temperature rises above the normal range. The body relies on maintaining a very narrow temperature range for organ function. When a dog’s temperature rises for prolonged periods, irreversible organ damage and death can occur. 

What signs should I be looking out for? 

  • Excessive panting 
  • Increased water intake 
  • Bright red gums 
  • Salivation 
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea 
  • Uncoordinated behaviour, pacing, wobbliness 
  • Seizures 
  • Collapse/Coma 
  • Death 

When should I call the vet? 

If you identify any of the above signs, you should move your dog to a cool area and then immediately contact your vet for advice. 

Is there anything I can do at home? 

If you have a friend or family member who can contact the vet for you, you can start cooling them off at the same time. You can do this by hosing them down and moving them in front of a fan.  

How do I prevent heat stress? 

  • Never leave your dog in the car alone, even if the windows are open. Cars are like ovens and over heating can occur very quickly 
  • Avoid exercise on warm days, or go very early in the morning or late in the evening if it is cool enough 
  • When kept outside ensure dogs have access to shady areas 
  • Short nosed breeds (eg. Pugs, French bulldogs and Boston Terriers) are more prone to heat stress than other breeds and extreme caution should be taken on warm days. Keeping them in air conditioning is advised.