At Petplan, we come across dozens of cases of tick-bites in pets every year. Even with all the precautions taken by the owners, we still had over 150 claims for cases of tick bites totalling more than $120,000!
Tick-bites pose a serious health hazard for pets, especially in the warmer spring and summer months.
What are ticks and where are they found?
Ticks are blood sucking parasites that attach themselves to the host animal on the exterior. They then insert their mouth parts into the host’s blood flow through the skin and start sucking blood. While doing so, they sometimes release toxins into the hosts blood-flow, which can cause the tick-bite symptoms like nausea, paralyses etc.
There are hundreds of species of ticks, of which around 70 are found in Australia, mostly along the east-coast from Queensland to Victoria. Ticks are mostly active in bushes and tall grasses and warm and moist weather conditions. Ticks can’t usually jump or fly – they can only crawl. They wait on the ends of the grasses and leaves for a host to brush past, at which moment they leave the leaf, and then attach themselves to the host.
Effects of tick-bites
Tick bites can cause various harmful effects on your dog’s health. Affected dogs may show no signs or may exhibit signs of irritation at the bite site including redness, inflammation, chewing, scratching and self-trauma. Many tick species have adapted to suppress the host animal’s response, making their bites relatively painless. The more serious effects of tick bites are:
- Systemic illness from tick-borne infectious microorganisms
- Hypersensitivity reactions,
- Neurotoxins in tick saliva that cause “tick paralysis”
- Anemia from blood loss.
Tick Paralysis is one of the most extreme and dangerous conditions caused by ticks in dogs and can also be life-threatening. It is caused by the ‘paralysis-tick’ that releases toxins into the blood of the host, which affects the host’s nervous system. Symptoms of tick paralysis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting or dry retching, excessive salivation, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, coughing
- Change to bark
- Noisy panting
- Difficulty swallowing
As symptoms progress you may notice:
- Limb weakness, starting in the hind legs, progressing to the front legs, appearing wobbly & uncoordinated, falling over, paralysis
- Laboured breathing
Tips to prevent tick-bites
Environmental Tick Control
Tick control in the environment generally involves treating the yard and kennel areas. Remember that cold, frosty fall weather does not kill ticks (in fact, that is when deer tick numbers are usually at their peak), so treat your yard well into the fall and early winter. Removing leaves and clearing brush and tall grass from around the house and kennel areas can also help reduce the number of ticks.
Tick Control on Your Pet
There are many tick control products for pets, including once-a-month topical products, sprays, powders, dips, shampoos, and collars.
If you live in an area where the presence of lyme disease and ticks is known, getting a lyme disease vaccination for your dog is a good idea.
Check your dog’s skin regularly for ticks, especially after an outdoor activity where the dog may have brushed past tall grasses and bushes.
If you see any signs of tick-bites, you should immediately consult a vet and get your dog checked and/or treated if required. As we all know, prevention is always better than cure. But if in spite of all the preventive measures, you dog does get bitten by ticks, Petplan pet insurance may cover that for you if you are insured with us.*
Removing ticks from your pet
If during a regular check after a trip to the park, you locate a tick on your dog, you can try removing it carefully. Always use a pointed tweezers to grasp the tick from as close to the dog’s skin as possible and pull out steadily. Never squeeze the tick while still attached to the dog as that can cause the tick to release more toxins into the blood. After pulling the tick out, apply a soothing ointment to the affected area.
This video also gives a simple demonstration of how to remove ticks from your pet’s skin:
*please read through the PDS in detail to understand your cover.
Webpages referred for the content of this article and more information on ticks: