Tick Poisoning

Tick poisoning can be deadly and requires urgent vet treatment!

We are the after-hours paralysis tick experts

Ticks are prevalent on the Northern Beaches and the North Shore, especially in Spring, and they can be deadly to your pets.

In fact, during tick season, it’s common for us to treat 100 patients a week for tick poisoning, and we’ve treated many thousands of animals for tick poisoning over decades in practice.

The Northside Emergency Veterinary Service staff have a lot of local knowledge and experience caring for pets affected by ticks. As a result, our team are considered experts in the treatment of tick poisoning.

NEVS is well-known for its world’s best practice for tick paralysis treatment. We have been involved in developing a gold standard treatment protocol that was published and provided to general practitioners, leading to improved outcomes in tick paralysis patients.

NEVS possesses advanced equipment, modern facilities, and a team of highly skilled professionals, allowing us to deliver superior 24-hour care to the most severely affected tick paralysis patients. Our commitment to excellence ensures that every patient receives comprehensive treatment and support tailored to their specific needs, resulting in optimal outcomes and enhanced patient well-being.

We’re here 365 days a year to help in the event of tick paralysis.

If you suspect your pet has tick poisoning, call us immediately.

Tell-tale signs your pet has tick poisoning

It is imperative that you know what tick poisoning or tick paralysis looks like.

Common symptoms of tick poisoning include:

  • Heavy or noisy breathing, panting, or grunting
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Wobbly legs
  • Collapse

If your pet is displaying these symptoms, call us immediately on 02 9452 2933

What is tick paralysis?

Tick paralysis is a serious and potentially fatal condition requiring urgent veterinary attention. It is caused by the holocyclin toxin, which the female tick injects into the animal’s blood. The toxin directly affects the nervous system, causing lower motor neuron paralysis.

Signs and symptoms are usually seen within 3 – 5 days of attachment. Once a tick is located and removed, clinical signs may worsen over the coming days. Progression of clinical signs is rapid, and if left to run its course, paralysis goes through three stages, as seen in the table here.

Tick paralysis is a highly variable disease, with some patients showing only mild signs and others requiring life support to survive. Prompt treatment helps reduce the severity and length of the course of the disease; however, despite our best efforts and early treatment, some patients do deteriorate and require more life-saving interventions.

If your pet has tick poisoning

  1. Remove the tick if possible.
  2. Do not wait to see what happens. Toxins will continue to affect your pet even when the tick has been removed. They still require urgent treatment.
  3. Call us (after-hours) or your usual vet (if they are open) immediately and arrange to bring your pet in.
  4. Do not give your pet any food or water. Due to the tick’s toxins, your pet may not be able to swallow effectively, putting them at risk for aspiration pneumonia.
  5. Where there is one tick, there is often more, so if you find one, thoroughly search your pet to see if any other ticks are attached to them.
  6. Keep your pet relaxed, calm and cool.
  7. Bring your dog or cat in as soon as possible.

How We Treat Ticks at NEVS

When you arrive, your pet will be taken into the triage or treatment area of the hospital to be monitored closely by our team of highly experienced vets and nurses while you wait to see the consulting veterinarian.

The stress of travelling in the car to the hospital can cause a deterioration of your pet’s condition and breathing. Sometimes, they will require oxygen therapy while they recover from the journey. 

If their respiratory distress is severe, they may need oxygen cannulas placed into their nasal passages or emergency intubation.

The anxiety associated with their condition can cause tick paralysis patients to deteriorate further, so one of the first medications we administer is a sedative.

Once the sedative has taken effect, an intravenous cannula is placed, and tick anti-serum (TAS) is administered very slowly while your pet is monitored closely for adverse reactions. 

The TAS does not reverse the symptoms already presenting but prevents further toxin binding to the nerve receptors. Ticks can be extremely difficult to find. 10% of tick paralysis patients will have two or more ticks. For this reason, it is part of our treatment plan to perform a full-body clip on all patients. Patients receive further sedation or a short general anaesthetic while the clip is performed to reduce stress.

Studies have proven pets that are not clipped have a higher mortality rate. After the clip, a tick-prevention product is applied.

What you can do to protect your pets from ticks

If you live on the North Shore or Northern Beaches, you should search your pet for ticks every day. Including a tick hook in your first aid kit can prove invaluable for safe and effective tick removal. Don’t wait for symptoms to arise; be proactive and get ahead of the ticks.

There are various products available to help to deter ticks and prevent tick paralysis. These include chews, tablets, sprays, and collars. Before buying them, talk to your vet about what will work best for your cat or dog. This will often come down to breed, size, lifestyle, health status and age.

If you find a tick on your pet and need after-hours advice, don’t hesitate to call NEVS.