Emergency first aid for a pet with a tick

We would normally say that tick season occurs in Queensland in the warm summer months, roughly from November to February.

However, cases like Amelia’s are an important reminder that ticks are a threat all year round.

The paralysis tick produces a neurotoxin which is absorbed into the blood and then gradually diffuses into the nervous system, causing paralysis of muscles and sometimes death.

Symptoms that your pet may be affected can include weakness, wobbly gait, exaggerated swallowing, retching/vomiting, gagging or reduced appetite, change to a pet’s bark/meow and difficulty breathing.

Amelia’s story

Having previously lost a cat to tick paralysis, Amelia’s owners from Anstead perform daily tick checks on their pets.

One evening Amelia didn’t come in for dinner and when she did Cathryn and Mark noticed that she was very wobbly on her legs. On closer inspection they found an engorged paralysis tick on the back of her neck which they removed.

Amelia became distressed and her normal talkative meows had ceased. Her owners brought her to our emergency vet hospital in Sinnamon Park where the tick was positively identified and her clinical symptoms confirmed tick paralysis.

Our vets performed a tick clip on Amelia and found a massive 11 ticks on her body. She was treated with tick anti-serum, sedation, full body clip and tick treatment spray (Fipronil). She responded well to treatment and once she was eating without gagging or retching she was able to go home for rest and monitoring.

We commend Amelia’s owners for their vigilance and quick action, which almost certainly saved her life.

Preventing a tick

Like Amelia’s owners, we recommend all pet owners perform daily tick checks on their pets.

You can do this by running your fingertips through your pet’s coat and checking the whole skin surface for bumps. Be extra attentive when checking around the head, mouth, neck, chest and shoulders.

Preventative tick treatments are also essential and your regular vet can advise you on the best option for your pet.

We recommend you be vigilant if your pet wanders into long grass, undergrowth, under trees or if you have native wildlife close to your home.

Emergency first aid for a pet with a tick

If you find a tick on your pet it is important to remove it immediately.

We recommend using a pair of pointed tweezers. Part your pet’s hair and then place the tweezers as close as you can to the skin on either side of the tick. Gently pull the tick away from the skin until it releases. Be careful not to twist the tweezers or squash the tick as this can worsen toxicity.

If your pet is showing signs of tick paralysis it’s important to seek urgent medical assistance. Additionally:

  • don’t give any food or water by mouth
  • keep your pet cool and as calm as possible on the trip to the vet
  • take the removed tick with you so that it can be identified.

Early detection and treatment is critical in tick paralysis cases. If you suspect your pet has been affected, contact your general vet ASAP or after hours an emergency vet hospital. Our Animal Referral Hospital is open 24 hours every day in Sinnamon Park, Brisbane and can be contacted on (07) 3172 0593.


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