As soon as spring and the rain arrive, so do the ticks. Here, on the eastern coast of Australia, the deadly Australian paralysing tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is a tick dreaded by all pet owners as it can kill a dog within few hours and may cause serious illness to humans when bitten. In America, the Brown Dog Tick or “Rhipicephalus Sanguineus” is well known for carrying the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This blood-feeding parasite not only carry many diseases able to infect humans, it also presents serious danger to all pets.
No matter where you live, ticks are dangerous. However, when detected and removed early, they won’t be lethal.
The life cycle of ticks
The female tick may lay as many as six thousands eggs anywhere suitable like dense fine foliage, barks or crevices. The eggs incubate for up to 110 days, depending on the weather. Warm and humid weather is clement to the cycle.
After this period, the eggs hatch into larvae. For about 40 days or so, they grow and then find a host to feed on. After 4 to 6 days, they then drop onto the ground.
After another 40 days, they become nymphs. The time it takes to transform into nymphs is highly dependent on the temperature. In colder or dry weather, it may take 36 weeks or they may not survive this period.
Another cycle then begins for the nymph to become an adult tick and attach itself to a host, may it be a dog or a koala.
It is interesting to note that only the female ticks feed on the host whilst the male ticks will look for the females to impregnate them and feed on them.
From the moment when the eggs hatch and before these eggs become full-fledged adult ticks, the tick returns to the host dog’s body many times to feed. Once this cycle is complete, the tick generally lives in a hideout for almost two years without requiring a dog’s body as a host to feed upon.
In Australia, there are about 75 species of ticks and apart from the paralysis tick, most of them will only cause a mild discomfort mostly due to an allergic reaction to the bite.
The paralysis tick on the other hand, releases a toxin through its saliva at time of feeding, which then enters the blood stream of the host, causing damages to the neuro-muscular system.
When left undetected, a single tick feeding on a dog will cause muscular paralysis, coma and eventually death. To adult humans, it may trigger serious allergic reaction, some types of spotted fevers, Q-fever or Lyme- like diseases.
Paralysis Tick Symptoms
It may take 2 or 3 days before your dog, or cat, and even horses, may show any signs of being infected. However, when the symptoms are present, you may have only few hours to act. Warmer and more humid the weather is, quicker the symptoms show up, so is the outcome.
It is extremely important to act quickly at the first signs if you want to save your pet’s life.
As the toxins are released in the blood and the muscles become affected, the animal will demonstrate the following symptoms:
- In the early stages the dog may look lethargic and refuses to move
- The dog may groan and yelp when touched or picked up. The cat may emit screeching sounds and have dilated pupils.
- Breathing: noticeable difficulty in breathing through the nose and mouth. Rapid breathing at first, then shallowed and laboured, with groaning at the end of expiration.
- Altered gait: the animal may lose the use of one or more limb, stumble, fall down and is unable to get up. The dog may run in circle but is unable to turn correctly. The animal is unable to climb stairs or walk straight. Eventually, the animal cannot lift its head or stand up.
- Vomiting or foaming at the mouth or regurgitation of food or fluid.
- Depending where the tick is attached, the animal may be unable to blink, may have discharge from its eyes, show incontinence.
- Heart failure is shown by laboured breathing, then bluish mucous.
Next part, I will discuss what to do if your pet has been bitten by a tick, how to remove a tick and tick prevention