Paralysis ticks may be coming to Canberra

WARNING: Hall Vet Lesa Potten (left) and head receptionist April Maney have concerns about the recent arrival of paralysis ticks in ACT. Photo: Karleen Minney
WARNING: Hall Vet Lesa Potten (left) and head receptionist April Maney have concerns about the recent arrival of paralysis ticks in ACT. Photo: Karleen Minney

Canberra vets are warning pet owners to be on the look out for paralysis ticks, with concerns the ticks may have adapted to the Capital's climate.  

Hall Veterinary Surgery vet, Lesa Potten said paralysis ticks are not uncommon in Canberra and until recently were confined to pets that visited the coast or came in contact with a tick brought back from the coast. 

But she said this month, a client presented their dog to the clinic with signs of tick paralysis and neither the dog or its immediate family had been to the coast.

Two other cases have also been reported at the Canberra Veterinary Emergency Service. 

"We often will see ticks, but there's been a history that either the family or that particular animal has been to the coast in the past few weeks - and that's not unusual," Dr Potten said.

"But these cases are disconcerting, paralysis ticks love the conditions on the coast and historically when you look at papers they'll be confined to about 20 kilometres around the eastern coast area."

Dr Potten said even though the ticks can survive in less than ideal conditions, they usually don't like extreme cold or hot and dry conditions.

"Traditionally, Canberra wouldn't be the ideal place for a tick to survive."

She said the traditional advice for pet owners in the ACT was there was no need to use preventives, unless pets were travelling to the coast. 

"There is now a big question mark about preventatives in the Canberra area," she said.

"Dog owners need to be aware, the message we're trying to get across is that prevention is safer, cheaper, and more likely to work than treatment once you start to see signs of tick paralysis."

Paralysis ticks are capable of killing a pet within three to four days of attaching. Early signs include tiredness, staggering, vomiting, breathing difficulty, progressing to paralysis.

"The main thing we would say is probably you need to tick check, even though you may not live at the coast and you're just a Canberra person with your animal," she said.

"Tick check everyday, just running your fingers through their coat, feeling in between their toes, checking in their mouth and ears, the other thing to consider is to start on tick prevention, especially coming into the summer, because a lot of them do fleas as well."

There are approximately 70 tick species found in Australia, not all are dangerous. Bush ticks are occasionally seen in the ACT but do not cause illness.

Dr Potten said if you find a tick on your pet, bring it with you to the vet to be identified.