In part 1, we’ve discussed the life cycle of ticks and the symptoms of the paralysis ticks of Australia when a dog or cat has become a feeding host. In this final article, I will explain what you can do for your pet when he has been bitten by a paralysis tick, how to remove the tick and tick prevention.
What to do if your pet has a paralysis tick
By now you have familiarised yourself with the symptoms of such tick bite and you are able to recognise the first signs.
The animal will become extremely distressed as the symptoms worsen. It is important to keep your pet calm as the toxins travel faster with the blood when the heart is pumping more rapidly. Be cautious when handling a distressed pet, especially cats as they are unable to discern what is happening around them and can easily cause harm to the handler.
- At the first signs, take your pet to the closest veterinary clinic. Even if the signs are mild and you have already removed the tick, please take your pet to the vet for a check-up. His life may depend on it!
- It is best not to attempt to remove the tick yourself as it may cause further amount of toxins to be injected into your pet. When a tick is removed, the symptoms are likely to get worse for the next 24 to 48 hours, therefore it is recommended that your pet be under veterinary care at that crucial time. However, if you can, inspect your dog or cat thoroughly to find the tick or ticks.
Until you arrive at the vet clinic, you can assist you dog by doing the following:
- Ensure there is nothing blocking his airways to help with the breathing. The toxins will paralyse the muscles and it will affect his breathing very quickly
- Keep your dog calm by reassuring him as much as possible to reduce stress and requirement for oxygen
- Keep him hydrated as much as you can by humidifying his tongue. You can do this with a small spray bottle or syringing some water or with a wet cloth
- Maintain the body to normal temperature. Do not cover your dog with a blanket if it is already warm as this will activate the feeding process of the tick, releasing more toxins in your pet’s body. If it is a hot day, put some cool wet towels on him instead.
- Once at the clinic, the vet will administer an anti-tick serum and will remove the ticks. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the vet will likely keep your pet in observation for at least 24 hours.
Removing a tick may be tricky and accelerate the symptoms, hence why it is important to have your pet at the vet’s when this is done. First of all, if you simply pull it, it is likely that you will break the head (or mouthpart) which will remain in the skin. This is not the worst thing though as the toxins and the tube are actually in the other side of the tick’s body. It will simply cause some irritation. Secondly, there is a good chance the tick will inject more toxin when threaten or disturbed.
Here are some steps you can follow if you may remove a tick yourself:
- Do not disturb the tick by unnecessarily touching it to avoid more toxins to be released in your dog’s body
- Use an angled tweezers or curved tweezers and firmly grasp the tick’s mouthpart as close to the skin as possible
- Firmly and quickly pull
- Flush the tick in the toilets or burn it.
- Disinfect the area and the tools with alcohol, lavender, niaouli or tea tree oil
- If you found 1 tick, don’t assume there are no others. Look for more.
Contrary to the common belief, pouring tea tree, Dettol (by the way never use Dettol on cats as it can kill them), methylated spirits, turpentine or other matters on the tick will not help removing the tick. In fact, it will disturb it further, making the situation worse. There are however some medicated spray that you can purchase from your vet to help freeze the tick before its removal.
In the event where the ticks are in the larval or nymph stages (they are very small and crawl everywhere), you can soak your pet for 30 minutes in a bath with 1 cup of Bicarb Soda. This will kill the baby ticks and you will be able to remove them freely by brushing them away.
If you live in an area known for ticks like the east coast of Australia, inspect your pet daily. In cats, ticks will usually attach to parts the cat cannot groom like its back and neck.
A tick which is full of blood like on the picture, is easier to detect because of its size. When they haven’t fed yet, they are small and a lot harder to see, so pay attention to any unusual little lumps or extruding parts on your pet’s body.
Areas you must inspects:
- The obvious ones are the neck, back, base of the tail, armpits, between the hind legs, ears
- The not so obvious ones: between toes, inside the mouth, inside the ears, chest, nose, eye lids, genitals (even in those places that are quite private!), anus
- Basically the entire body!
- Ticks like moisture and darkness. They are happy where it is wet and grubby in long grass and bushes. Apparently, they even like lantana scrubs! Mow the lawns, trim the bushes and hanging branches and keep your dog’s bedding clean and dry.
- Get your dog or cat an anti-tick collar and start a good anti-parasite regime.
- If you use insecticide, use those for humans as they are safe. Unfortunately, many insecticide for animals are so unsafe that humans need to wear protective clothing to handle them. Think what these chemicals can do to your dog! Check that the product is efficient against ticks.
- Examine your pet for ticks daily
I hope these tips and information will be useful to you as they may save your pet’s life.