Ticks are common along the east coast of Australia, and Brisbane’s warm climate is especially attractive to them. There’s still a few months of heat left before the seasons turn, which means it’s still important to think about protecting your pets from these nasty little critters.
Most pet owners know about paralysis ticks because of how dangerous they are. And if you’re living in the more rural parts of Brisbane and Queensland, you should always keep them in mind, because they’re common in the area. But paralysis ticks aren’t the only ones to worry about: there are actually about 75 types of ticks that live in the area, which are also known to cause sick pets and big vet bills.
It can be really scary to find a tick on your pet. And it’s definitely important to make the right decisions when you do find one, because if they’re left untreated, your pet can become very ill. But before you start to worry too much, there are a few things you can keep in mind that will help you choose the right treatment if it happens, and a few ways to reduce the chances of ticks getting stuck into your pet in the first place.
Checking your pet for ticks
When it comes to ticks, prevention is always better than cure—but that doesn’t just mean tick treatments, it also means regular, thorough checks of your pet.
A good time to check your dog is straight after their walk (or, for outdoor cats, after they’ve been outside or once a day), because you can sometimes catch the ticks before they’ve firmly latched on. Go through your pet’s fur with a fine-tooth comb, but they’re not always easy to see before they’ve fed, so feeling with your fingertips is often more effective (just remember to always wash your hands afterwards, because ticks can carry a lot of diseases). Another effective method, especially for people who are a bit squeamish about feeling for lumps and bumps, is to use a blowdryer to part the fur.
Always be systematic when you’re doing a tick check. Ticks are mostly found around the head and neck of your pet, so it’s always best to start there and work your way to the back. Don’t forget to check between your pet’s toes, and in folds of skin under the armpits, ears, and mouth. You might also consider clipping your pet’s fur a little in the warm months, but be careful about this: cats and dogs use their coats to regulate their body temperature, and cutting it too short also makes them susceptible to sunburn, which is always a risk in Brisbane’s summer months.
Most of the ticks that are common to Brisbane and the east coast of Australia are hard to identify when they’re unfed. They’re mostly light brown in colour, but there are several different stages in the cycle of each species, so unless you’re an expert it can be difficult to identify them early. If you remove a tick from your pet before it’s engorged and you’re concerned, you can take it with you to the vet, and they might be able to determine which species it is and rule out any danger to your animal.
Once ticks are engorged, however, they’re relatively easy to identify. Of the most common ticks around Brisbane, brown dog ticks are usually pale beige in colour; cattle ticks are greyish green; bush ticks are usually darker blue; and paralysis ticks—the ones you really have to worry about—are whiter. Even if you can’t find a tick on your pet, paralysis ticks can usually be suspected when the animal is feverish, lethargic, not eating, coughing or vomiting, having trouble breathing, or uncoordinated in the hind legs.
If you find or suspect a paralysis tick on your animal, act fast: take them to the vet straight away, because the earlier they have treatment, the more likely it is that they’ll be no worse for the wear in the long run.
Be prepared though: sometimes, even after a paralysis tick is removed, your pet will get sicker before it gets better, because the toxins are still in its body.
Treating your pet for ticks
If you find a tick on your pet and you’re reasonably sure it’s a less threatening species that’s safe to remove, you can pull it off. There are actually specific tweezer-like products that are designed to twist and remove ticks without leaving the jagged mouth barbs of the tick behind, but tweezers often work just as well. Make sure to grip the tick from underneath, where its head meets your pet’s skin, and twist and pull. It’s important to make the twisting motion before you pull, because it releases the tick’s mouthparts.
Also, try not to squeeze the body of the tick, because it can pump more venom into your pet. Don’t put anything on your pet’s skin (not even antiseptic), because it can make the bite worse.
As with most pet health issues, prevention is better than cure. Preventative tick treatments—like collars, spot treatments, and tablets—are all effective in killing ticks and preventing them from latching onto your pet in the first place. These products are widely used and accepted as safe, but it is important to follow the instructions properly and choose the right product for your animal’s breed and particular needs.
At Gleam O’Dawn, we stock a range of preventative tick products perfectly suited to Brisbane pets. We carry collars from Preventic, Kiltix and Ceresto which are known to provide good protection against paralysis ticks, as well topical spot on treatment from Frontline and chewable tablets from Bravecto and Nexgard.
For more information on our range of tick prevention treatments, contact us anytime, or drop into our store to talk about the best products to safeguard your furry friends over summer and throughout the year.