Urgent warning to Aussies as 'dangerous' ticks emerging 'everywhere'

Many pet owners are not aware of the severe health risks that the parasite poses.

A vet is warning pet owners to not underestimate the severe health risk that paralysis ticks pose to animals as the warmer weather increases the number of bites reported — with people also at risk from the influx.

"Paralysis ticks are everywhere" according to Dr Joan Gibbons, with the vet telling Yahoo News Australia she has treated ten animals in the last ten days at her clinic on the NSW and Queensland border.

"These are intensive care cases," the vet from Murwillumbah said. "Most people are more worried about the fact that their animal can't walk but what is much more dangerous for them is the respiratory or cardiac issues involved."

Left, a grey cat had a paralysis tick removed with the tick on the vets finger. Right, a dog has a bandaged paw after a tick was removed.
A vet has been inundated with pets in her clinic due to an increase in paralysis tick bites. Source: Supplied

There is an extensive treatment process involved when a pet is bitten by a tick, with medical staff required to "completely shave" and then observe the animal while tick serum is administered. In extreme cases, oxygen care and specialists are required to save the animal's life.

Despite the vet noting there is a 90 per cent survival rate at her clinic for pets bitten by a tick, this statistic doesn't account for the more severe cases that specialists and emergency vets treat.

Telltale signs a pet has been bitten by a tick

Ticks, parasites that feed on animal blood, release a toxin when they bite an animal and the most obvious symptom associated with this is a lack of coordination or wobbliness, with the animal visibly struggling to stand or move.

Laboured breathing and grunt noises will indicate the pet is in distress, and any vomiting is considered incredibly dangerous.

"Most animals with a tick have compromised gag reflexes ... If they do vomit, their airway is often not protected. So their prognosis is much poorer for those vomiting," Dr Gibbons said.

If an animal is suffering from these symptoms or a tick is found, the vet encourages pet owners to "seek veterinary help as soon as possible."

How to protect your pet from a tick bite

Dr Gibbons explained there are two ways to protect your pet from ticks:

  1. Give your pet oral tablets — some offer monthly protection, while others can safeguard the animal for longer.

  2. Get into the daily habit of "checking them everyday" for ticks.

Ticks can also be 'fatal' for people if left untreated

Despite the majority of paralysis ticks affecting animals, humans can also be affected and they can be "fatal" if not properly treated.

"If you find a tick do not attempt to remove the tick with tweezers. Do not scratch or disturb a tick," Stephen Doggett from NSW Health Pathology told Yahoo News.

A group of ticks in the palm of a hand.
There has been an influx in ticks recently due to the wetter weather. Source: Supplied

People who are not allergic to ticks should kill it by using a "ether-based spray" or seek urgent medical assistance if they are unable to freeze it. However, those with a known tick allergy should seek urgently seek medical intervention — with some susceptible to severe reactions including life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

How to avoid a tick bite

There are some simple measures which minimise the chance of being bitten by a tick, according to Dr Doggett:

  • Apply repellents to the skin — look out for products which include DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus

  • Permethrin impregnated clothes "dramatically reduce" the risk of tick bites

  • Various insecticides used in the backyard can also control the number of ticks at home

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