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Paralysis ticks on dogs and cats

In Australia, there are 2 types of ticks that are particularly problematic for pets: paralysis ticks and brown dog ticks. Each year, thousands of Australian pets are affected by paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus), which are among the most dangerous parasites that can affect pets.

Paralysis Ticks on dogs and cats are potentially life-threatening, so if you live in or visit a tick area, take care to minimise the risk of tick infestation. This includes using a trustworthy tick control product like FRONTLINE PLUS for dogs or FRONTLINE SPRAY.

Where are paralysis ticks found?

Paralysis ticks are found on the eastern seaboard, from North Queensland to Victoria. In northern parts of Australia, paralysis ticks may be found all year round, while in southern areas, the season can begin in late winter and finish in late autumn. This means tick prevention for your pet is a serious year-round commitment. Paralysis ticks aren’t always restricted to the coastline and can be found inland in suitable habitats.

Paralysis ticks are found on animals that live in or near bush or scrubland. Native animals like marsupials, birds and reptiles are natural hosts, but ticks can also become attached to and affect pets.


How do I identify paralysis ticks?

Paralysis ticks have a hard body, are usually pale brown, and are about 2 to 4mm long. Once on your pet, the tick attaches and becomes deeply and firmly embedded in the skin. When an adult tick feeds on blood, it increases in size dramatically, up to 14mm long! Once a tick attaches to the skin, the area becomes red, and a raised thickening or crater may appear. A crater is evidence of a prior tick attachment.

How do paralysis ticks cause toxicity?

While the tick sucks blood from the host animal, it secretes saliva that contains toxins. These toxins are absorbed by the pet, causing tick toxicity, including paralysis. Pets of any age can be affected.

What are the symptoms of toxicity?

  • Loss of coordination in the hind legs – wobbly or not being able to get up
  • Change in voice or bark/meow
  • Retching, coughing or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Progressive paralysis starting in hind legs and progressing to forelegs
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • Cases don’t always progress predictably – pets can die suddenly in the early stages of paralysis

How do I check for paralysis ticks on dogs and cats?

Check your pet’s coat and skin for ticks daily, especially after outings. Pay special attention to these areas:

  • Head and neck and front limbs
  • Skin folds
  • Inside the ear flaps
  • Between the toes and under the armpits

Signs of tick toxicity generally develop 72 hours after the attachment of the tick.

What should I do if I suspect my pet has a paralysis tick?

Search for a tick or ticks and remove them straight away. Keep your pet calm and at a comfortable temperature and take it to the vet for tick treatment, such as tick anti-serum, immediately. Don’t offer food or water, as this may lead to aspiration pneumonia and breathing difficulties if it can't swallow properly.