Cat owners are being warned over a common mistake that could cost owners a trip to the emergency room and a vet bill of more than $10,000.
At least 10,000 pets are rushed to hospital with potentially deadly tick bites each year in Australia.
However, experts warn many Australians are not protecting their furry friends properly against ticks by deworming monthly and using year-round tick and flea control.
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Dr Katherine Briscoe said the consequences of not using preventive care for cats can be “catastrophic”.
“The worst case scenario would be that a cat who is not on routine tick prevention developed tick paralysis,” she told 7NEWS.com.au.
“Tick paralysis is a life-threatening condition, with many potential consequences ranging from inability to move the limbs to paralysis of the muscles that control breathing, meaning that the cat requires a ventilator.”
Briscoe said even mild cases of tick paralysis will require treatment which can cost upwards of a few hundred dollars.
“But if ventilation is required, then the cost of treatment can be upwards of $10,000,” she said.
At least 10,000 pets are rushed to hospital with potentially deadly tick bites each year in Australia. Credit: ilkermetinkursova/Getty Images
Many cat owners do not understand the full risks of parasitic infection, Briscoe added.
“Unlike dogs, a lot of cats are indoor only, or mostly indoors, and so owners perceive that the risk of parasitic infection is low,” she said.
“What is not considered is that other animals may bring parasites into the home, or they may enter the home on peoples’ clothes.”
If parasitic infections are not treated properly, Briscoe says there can also be a risk to humans of the infection transmitting to them from their cat.
Early treatment for tick paralysis is crucial.
For mild cases, treatment may involve hospitalisation and administration of tick antiserum.
However, more severe cases may require longer-term hospitalisation, potentially ICU-level care and in some cases the use of a ventilator.
Signs of tick paralysis can vary, and may include:
Altered mobility, which may include loss of co-ordination and weaknessLaboured or rapid breathing, grunting noises and/or abdominal heavingChange or loss of barkCoughingGagging and vomitingLoss of appetiteInability to blink in one or both eyesAppearing generally unwell