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Aussie pet owners warned after scary discovery behind dog's ear

Two pet dogs in NSW became violently ill after two massive paralysis ticks latched onto their heads at a farm near Byron Bay.

Strange behaviour and then vomiting were the first signs something was awry. Wednesday’s incident gave their owner, Woodburn woman, Michelle Webber a “big shock”.

By speaking with Yahoo News Australia, Ms Webber is hoping to remind other dog owners to protect their dogs this season with tick protection medication. There are also a number of key behavioural signs that could indicate your dog has been bitten.

A $2 dollar coin and two ticks on a piece of paper.
Two large ticks were removed from Ms Webber's dogs. Source: Supplied

Knowing that her 18-month-old Maltese terrier Teddy is usually “a bit sulky”, she initially dismissed his “sad” demeanour. “He was just wanting to hide and just wouldn't come out from his little house,” Ms Webber said.

She was able to coax Teddy out and convince him to go for a walk with her other five dogs. “Then I just didn't think too much of it,” she said.

Dogs rushed to vet after tick bites

But it’s what happened to her 3-year-old blue heeler Stumpy next that made her suspect something was drastically wrong. “He was just running around like he usually does, doing ‘zoomies’, and then he just came up to me and vomited some white foam,” she said.

Ms Webber called Stumpy over, and that’s when she made her first discovery. “I was patting him on the back of his neck and I felt this big lump,” she said. “That’s where I found the first tick.”

Stumpy the blue heeler (left) and Teddy the Maltese (right).
Stumpy (left) and Teddy (right) had large ticks embedded near their ears. Source: Supplied

All of the dogs were called back to the house for thorough tick checks. At first, Teddy seemed to be tick free, but after checking a third time a small tick was found in front of his ear.

Both dogs were taken to the vet and are improving in health. “They’re both eating and drinking, and I’ve been checking their gums to make sure they’re not going pale,” Ms Webber said.

Ms Webber said she usually treats her dogs during warmer months with NexGard medication, but it had slipped her mind this year. All dogs have now been medicated.

What are the signs of a tick bite?

On November 2, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) warned the country was experiencing a shortage of tick paralysis antiserum. On Thursday it confirmed supply issues continue.

This followed a "sudden increase in demand" that occurred after a proliferation of ticks associated with wet, warm weather. AVA reported there had been anecdotal evidence pet owners had become complacent about medicating their dogs during winter and drought.

It recommends dog and cat owners in at-risk areas across Australia's east coast use tick prevention throughout the year.

RSPCA Victoria suggested this week that pet owners give their animal a really big massage after walks, checking all areas including head, ears, mouth, toes and groin.

"If you're going into a public area, make sure your dog is groomed, because it's going to help you pick up if there are ticks a little bit earlier," its chief vet Bronwyn Oke told AAP.

Common symptoms of tick bites include a change in vocalisation, unsteadiness, back leg weakness, vomiting, difficulty breathing and drooling. Bites can eventually result in muscle paralysis and death.

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