There are 70 species of ticks found in Australia, however only a couple of species are dangerous to our pets and livestock.
In Victoria, dogs and cats may be infested by three types of ticks – the brown dog tick, bush ticks and the paralysis tick.
The brown dog tick and bush ticks can cause some irritation but are not poisonous. Some species of bush tick carry a microorganism called Theileria which can cause blood loss and death in cattle, but this illness does not affect dogs, cats or people.
Paralysis ticks do not occur naturally in West Gippsland, but we have seen cases of tick paralysis in dogs and cats that have visited eastern coastal regions in Victoria.
Immature ticks climb up long grass and attach themselves to passing animals.
They then bury their mouth parts deep in the skin.
As they feed on blood they secrete a venom which causes weakness and inco-ordination, coughing, retching or vomiting, loss of voice and breathing difficulty.
These signs can appear as early as five days after the tick attaches and sometimes up to 18 days.
The tick should be removed using tweezers or a special tick hook (available from the Drouin Vet Clinic), you can wash the dog in tick rinses and this will kill the tick in situ without it releasing any more toxin.
Simply removing the tick is no guarantee that the signs will improve.
If you find a tick on your pet, you should take it straight to the vet.
Animals that show signs of tick paralysis will need prompt treatment with anti-venom and supportive care.
Tick paralysis is a life threatening condition and some pets will not survive despite the best treatment.
At the Drouin Vet Clinic we recommend appropriate prevention if you are taking your pets to eastern Victoria. Please visit us at 4 Sinclair Street, Drouin for your tick prevention supplies.