Tick Paralysis: Prevention Far Better than a Cure

Tick Paralysis: Prevention Far Better than a Cure

Tick paralysis is nothing to joke about. A single tick can kill a large dog, and Australia is home to plenty of these potentially lethal critters. It’s estimated that 10,000 cases of tick paralysis occur in pets in Australia each year. It’s a serious condition and one that is best dealt with through prevention.

When Are Ticks Active?

In Sydney, ticks start becoming a problem in about September, though there isn’t really a completely safe time of year. The peak season, though, is during the spring and summer months. The greatest number of cases are seen on the east coast of Australia.

What Happens When A Tick Bites a Dog?

Ticks feed on mammalian blood - marsupials, dogs, cats, and yes, humans are all potential victims. As they eat, ticks dribble toxin-containing saliva back into the host. This neurotoxin affects the messages transmitted to muscles. At first, the host experiences some weakness and eventually, if let unchecked, full paralysis and eventually death may result. Treatment once tick paralysis takes hold can be expensive and isn’t always successful.

How to Remove a Tick

It takes time (several days) for enough toxin to build up in the host’s body after a tick latches on and starts feeding. Thoroughly checking your dog a couple of times a day for any embedded ticks will let you catch the problem fast. Current thinking is that it’s best to kill the tick in place and then let it fall out naturally, the idea being that the less you agitate the tick while it’s alive, the less toxin it will excrete while it’s still embedded in your dog’s body. Use a freezing spray like those used to remove warts, which will kill the tick fast.

New Preventive Medications Available

Even better than waiting to discover a tick on your dog (and this can be tricky with large dogs, particularly those with lots of hair or a thick undercoat), use a tick repellant. Not that long ago our only options on that front were applied topically. Sprays containing chemicals like permethrin are effective, but they wash off in the rain or if your dogs likes to swim and they are really toxic. Poisons like permethrin aren’t the kind of thing you want on your toddler’s hands after she pats the dog. Unfortunately, the products are also really toxic for cats, a problem in households with both cats and dogs and tragic when cats were treated inadvertently and licked the sprays off their fur.

New Preventive Drugs are Safe and Effective

Recently developed and approved for use in dogs, a new class of preventive drugs are taken orally. Drugs like fluralaner (brand name Nexgard) are long-lasting systemic drugs that prevent tick infestation for up to four months and prevent fleas for up to three months. Since these drugs have become available, the number of tick paralysis cases has decreased in Australia, which is good news indeed for dog owners.

*NB* Here are Rawmate we feel pretty strongly against any product marketed as Bravecto. This range of products fails our own stringent quality standards and we urge you to reconsider the market entirely and objectively to come to your own conclusions. (we use Nexgard Spectra and Flea, Tick and Wormer all in one and have found this option to be superior when it comes to the health and safety of our own dogs. Obviously this is NOT a paid advertisement or induced in any way)


There are very few side effects to the new medications and, when compared to the devastation that can result from tick paralysis, it only makes sense to start your dog on a regular treatment regimen (consult with your vet as to the best timing for administering these drugs). Regular tick checks for your dog are still a good idea and, of course, check yourself and your children as well when you come in from a trip to the park.


At Rawmate we hate the idea that any of our pack members might fall ill as a result of a tick bite. So take care of your canine friends! Post a photo of you and your dog out and about and enjoying the great Australian weather on Instagram using the hashtag #rawmate


Matt Joseph

Staff writer

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