Tick of Approval

Fortunately I do not live or practice in an area of Australia that is prone to paralysis tick infestation as this is one less competitor to battle for good health in my animal patients.

I am often asked however about this subject given that many of my clients like to travel and the east coast of our beautiful country is a favorite destination for visitors as well as being prime paralysis tick territory.

The unfortunate reality when it comes down to preventing tick infestation on our pets is that all chemical products available are, by definition, poisons.

All available over the counter products kill ticks because they are nerve poisons. The safety margins of these products for mammalian systems varies and all products registered in Australia through Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) have passed safety standards for registration.

As a person who does not use chemicals if I can avoid them, I am interested to know about management of these parasites and many others from a more natural basis. Whilst the majority of pet owners will purchase and use one of the myriad recommended products from pet shops, vets or online, there is a group of people who, like myself, prefer to avoid the use of chemicals  in our environments and family.

The paralysis tick has three life stages and these are usually found on native animals like bandicoots, kangaroos and possums that are able to develop resistance to tick induced disease. The seed or immature ticks also climb up grass stems and bush foliage and can be picked up by any passing warm blood meal source before dropping off again for the next lifecycle stage. The most important and infective stage is adult female ticks and these will cause paralysis as they feed over days to weeks on the host.

My first and most memorable experience of this parasite was quite devastating. A client had picked up the tick on his backpack whilst hiking through bushland hundreds of kilometers away and carried it unknowingly home to a definitive host. Given that we did not live in tick country the ensuing and fatal disease the family dog developed was not recognised until a fully engorged paralysis tick dropped off from their beloved dog’s body at post mortem examination about two horrible weeks later.

 

You don’t forget these lessons.

 

There are many excellent articles written on many vet blogs about this parasite and the disease and prevention options so I will not go into further detail about that here. People reading my blog are looking for alternatives to chemical prophylaxis and want to avoid using the available poisons on the market.

The only reliable option regardless of whether you use chemicals or not, since nothing will guarantee protection, is to examine your pet thoroughly every day that you are inside a tick risk zone.

 

With paralysis tick it is essential to physically examine your pet every day from toes to tip of nose and tail, ears, vulva, prepuce and all crevices in between as these opportunists will seek haven anywhere they can attach and be hidden. No control measure beats looking for ticks every day.

 

 

So look, look, look and look again and you will avoid 99% of the problem since these parasites take about 3-4 days to engorge and cause physical symptoms in dogs. Do not stop looking just because you find a tick either because if there is one there may very well be many and not always in the same place.

Undiscovered ticks cause disease starting with coughing, weakness and malaise progressing to full loss of function over a week or two. Paralysis of respiratory muscles can bring an end to life if not caught in time. Treatment involves hospitalisation, homeopathy, supportive care and anti toxin once clinical signs appear.

Here is a picture of an engorged tick and it will often be greenish, blue in color like a broad bean kernel and similar in size although this one is darker. You will only see them like this once your dog or cat is already showing signs of intoxication unless they have developed resistance. Fortunately animals living in tick areas do develop a degree of resistance to tick toxin over time, which helps enormously to reduce morbidity. Any embedded object must be considered to be suspicious and I highly recommend getting a specialised tick twister or simple device for tick removal and learning to use it properly, getting well underneath the implanted mouthparts without squeezing the tick body. These tick twisters are readily available at outlets in tick areas.

 

The only chemical product I would consider using as a preventative is Dermcare Permoxin spray concentrate that is made up and used in a spray bottle with water as required. This is not safe for cats but can be used daily on dogs if ticks are being found. This is a synthetic pyrethroid and mimics the pyrethrums found in chrysanthemums. It is still unsafe to use in cats so be careful if you have cats in the household. You also have to completely wet the dog with this product for maximum benefit.

More conveniently and second choice for safety and effectiveness is Fipronil (Frontline) which I use as a spray to kill ticks if you are finding them or know they are prevalent…sparingly spray and rub over the dogs coat/feet/ears, avoiding eyes and nostrils…I wear plastic gloves. This is also safer in cats and cat households.

Bottom line is to use these sparingly and not to overuse.

 

There are many natural repellents that are described by many people and a lot of these plants and oils will indeed help. With paralysis tick however the cost of these not working and an overreliance on them can have dire consequences.

 

Ticks have 8 legs, they are arachnids like spiders and all living things have a role to play in the cosmic Lila even if we do not recognise or appreciate this. It is also true that we have long gone past tipping point for our impact upon the natural ecological balance on Earth and we do need to be mindful of the hazards we have propagated and are at risk of encountering as a result of our interferences. These will be evident both by intractable imbalances in insect, pest or predator populations as well as environmental chemical contamination.

Sadly for our pets, paralysis tick is one such organism that we are at war with most of the year along the east coast of Australia.

In line with all advice I give to my clients, keep your animals vibrantly healthy with species appropriate raw meaty bones and vege slurries so that they have optimum natural defences and collect information about the adversaries you may need to face so that you are properly prepared.

 

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Life is nothing
But perpetual preparation.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, part 26, Agni Press, 2002

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Always be prepared
To fight against
Your stark ignorance-enemies.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, part 13, Agni Press, 1999

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Do not be afraid
Of unexpected calamities —
Just be fully prepared.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, part 36, Agni Press, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

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