September to April is prime tick time. The type of tick that causes most illness from its bite is the Paralysis Tick with over 95% of bites coming from this species. The Paralysis Tick is most commonly found on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range from northern Queensland and extending as far south as Tasmania in areas of bushy, native terrain with long grass. Cats, dogs, cattle, sheep and humans are all susceptible to the toxin’s effect which is injected when a Paralysis Tick attaches to its host.
How Do Paralysis Ticks Take Effect?
- Ticks have a 4 stage life cycle – egg, larvae, nymph and adult. All life stages except for the egg require a host for access to blood which they feed from for growth, development and reproduction. It’s only the females that attach and bite, as while the males inhabit a host it is only to mate with a female
- The tick’s saliva has a localised pain killer in it so that the host isn’t aware that it’s been bitten
- Upon attachment the tick will suck out blood from the host while injecting a neurotoxin which damages or destroys cells of the central nervous system causing the paralysis
- Once they have ingested sufficient blood they will fall from their host and develop into their next life cycle. In their final life cycle manifestation as an adult, after consuming enough blood, the females will fall to the ground and lay eggs for the cycle to begin again….
What Are The Signs That My Cat’s Been Bitten By A Paralysis Tick?
Interestingly, it seems that cats are often more tolerant of tick poisoning than dogs, but the signs of being bitten are similar for both.
- A change in the sound of puss-cat’s meow (or naturally, bark for our doggie friends) which becomes softer or changes pitch
- Weakness in their hind legs, suddenly sitting down and eventually progressing forward to effect the front legs
- Vomiting, especially multiple times in a day and there is frothing at the mouth
- Excessive salivation
- Panting progressing to breathing that is exaggerated and difficult
What Should I Do If I Suspect A Paralysis Tick Bite?
If a tick bite goes untreated it can lead to death so it’s important to treat tick bites seriously.
- Seek vet treatment as soon as possible
- Don’t let puss-cat (or doggie friend) eat or drink as their swallowing responses are likely to have been compromised which could lead to choking
- The vet will probably administer an anti-serum with the success rate being much better the sooner this is administered
- When your cat comes home they will still have some residual effects of the toxin, so:
- Don’t let your cat get too hot as they can overheat quickly
- Minimise exercise for the following week
- Monitor them during meal times ensuring that they can swallow normally
- Don’t overexcite them
- Continue to check for other ticks as a further bite in the ensuing 3 weeks is likely to be more serious
How To Prevent Paralysis Tick Bites
- Keep your cat as an indoor cat. Doh, if they don’t have access to tick areas the chances of getting bitten are vastly reduced
- If you still think it’s ok to let your cat roam make sure you check them EVERY DAY during tick season. Work back from their nose to the tail, paying particular attention to their ears and between their toes. Any ticks that are present will feel like little bumps
- There are a variety of preventative rinses, sprays and oral medications that can be used to avoid tick attachment. Remember that none of these treatments will be 100% effective so ensure you don’t consider them as a set-and-forget measure. Continue to check puss-cat for ticks as well administering these treatments
- Wash their bedding frequently as this is another place where ticks like to live and lurk. All the Cat Habitat bedding options are fully machine washable because we like to make life easy for the hoomans as well beautiful for cats.