- If you find a tick on your pet it is important to remove it. Using very fine tipped tweezers, grasp the tick by the mouthparts (closest to the skin), avoiding the sac which contains the venom. Twist and remove. If you are concerned that you cannot remove the tick safely, your veterinarian can do this for you.
- It is important to continue to search for other ticks on the animal.
- Seek veterinary attention immediately, as the tick venom continues to circulate in the blood after the tick is removed – and it is common for signs to progress after tick removal. Animals that show no signs should be closely observed for a minimum of 24 hours following tick removal.
- Because the venom affects the heart and swallowing apparatus, it is important to keep your animal strictly confined and rested and to withdraw access to food and water until you consult your veterinarian.
Clinical signs occur in 3-7 days.
- Loss of voice or change in the pitch of bark
- Wobbliness in the hind limbs
- Difficulty eating (may struggle to pick up and keep food in the mouth)
- Gagging and grunting
- Dilated pupils
- Difficulty urinating
- Difficulty walking
- Respiratory distress
- Death(usually due to heart failure)
One or more engorged ticks may be found on the animal, but they can be notoriously difficult to see in fur. Most ticks are found in places that are beyond the reach of grooming or scratching – between the shoulder blades, under the chin and around the head and face. Where the tick has fallen or been groomed off there is often a characteristic crater left at the bite site.
EFFECTS OF TOXICITY
Tick envenomation causes progressive dysfunction of nerves and is directly toxic to cardiac tissue. This leads to progressive paralysis and can cause heart failure.
Veterinary care may consist of administration of tick antiserum and supportive care. Because tick antiserum is highly allergenic, premedication with antihistamines or steroids may be required – particularly if the animal has had tick-antiserum previously. Severely affected animals may require oxygenation or mechanical ventilation and 24 hour intensive care. Animals with aspiration pneumonia are given antibiotics. The duration and intensity of care depends on the severity of clinical signs.
Atwell RB, Campbell FE and Evans EA (2001) Prospective survey of tick paralysis in dogs. Australian Veterinary Journal 79(6):412-418.
Schull DN, Litser AL and Atwell RB (2011) Tick toxicity in cats caused by Ixodes species in Australia: a review of published literature. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 9:487-493.