Dog owners are being warned ahead of this year’s tick season over a common mistake that could cost owners a trip to the emergency room and a vet bill of up to $38,000.
At least 10,000 pets are rushed to hospital with potentially deadly tick bites each year in Australia.
However, experts warn many Australians are currently not protecting their furry friends properly against ticks.
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And by not doing so, Pet Circle head veterinarian Dr Teagan Lever warns the outcomes could be deadly.
“With the costs of living rising, Aussie pet parents experiencing financial stress may be considering reducing their spend on preventative care such as flea, tick and heartworm treatments or vaccinations,” she said.
“Unfortunately, skipping preventative treatment can leave your pet at risk of life-threatening illness that can be very costly to treat.”
Tick paralysis is a condition that can often catch pet parents unaware, Lever added.
“Just one tick is enough to cause life-threatening illness, beginning with mild symptoms like change of voice/bark, difficulty swallowing and weakness in the back legs, progressing to complete paralysis, including paralysis of the respiratory muscles and ultimately death if left untreated,” she said.
At least 10,000 pets are rushed to hospital with potentially deadly tick bites each year in Australia. Credit: alexsokolov/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Lever warns unsuspecting pet owners can quickly be swamped with huge vet bills if their pets are not properly protected against ticks.
“As I have seen it, the average cost of treatment for a case of tick paralysis is around $2000, although it is not uncommon for more severe cases to cost in excess of $10,000 to treat,” she said.
“The highest bill I have seen is $38,000.”
Where are ticks found?
While vets say all dog owners should ensure their pet is protected regardless of where they reside, there are some areas that are of more concern.
Areas near dense bushland along rivers or the coast, such as near national parks, are common hotspots for ticks.
Spots along the country’s east coast are particular areas of concern for both paralysis and bush ticks,
For brown dog ticks, hotpots include NSW, QLD, VIC, NT and SA and some areas along the West Australian coast.
How to protect
Lever says 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.
Even with the best treatment, Lever warns pets can still die from tick paralysis.
“When it comes to ticks, prevention is ultimately better than cure,” she said.
“The Pet Circle Vet Squad recommend that all pets living in or travelling to a tick paralysis area be covered with an isoxazoline class tick preventative, such as Bravecto, Nexgard, Credelio or Simparica year round.
“While these treatments are very effective, we also recommend searching your pet daily for ticks, particularly in the warmer months, just in case.”
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