Ticks in Australia

The main Tick species in Australia include:
The Indigenous Tick - found in Western Australia, Tasmania, the south-east coastal region of New South Wales and central Victoria. It may cause paralysis. 
Paralysis Tick - found from northern Queensland to Bairnsdale in Victoria along the coastal regions. Causes paralysis. 


Cattle Tick - found in Queensland, north-eastern New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia. This tick is rare on dogs and carries parasites found in cattle blood. 
Bush Tick - also known as a scrub tick and New Zealand cattle tick. It is found in the southeast coastal area of Queensland, along the New South Wales coast line and through north eastern Victoria along the Murray River. 
Brown Dog Tick - found mainly in inland areas of Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Most prevalent in the northern parts of Australia. Carries a wide range of infectious diseases including Babesia Canis which can occur in a symptom less carrier state or in disease form ranging in severity from mild to severe and occasionally causing death. 

 
Other ticks found in Australia include the Cat Tick, Possum Tick, Opossum Tick and the Wallaby tick.


Paralysis Tick

Bush Tick 

Brown Dog Tick

 The AUSTRALIAN PARALYSIS TICK (Ixodes holocyus) is distributed in south eastern coastal temperate regions. It secretes a neurotoxin in its saliva that causes a progressive, and occasionally fatal, paralysis. Sometimes a severe hypersensitivity reaction may occur. Often the tick goes unnoticed until weakness or ataxia develop, and then is found during an ensuing search (don't forget to look behind ears etc!). Occasionally localised paralysis of facial muscles occur, but more commonly there is progressive ascending flaccid paralysis affecting the lower limbs first. Other grass ticks can be a real nuisance at times, causing really itchy bites.

Prevention is better than cure. If you know you are going into tick areas, wear long, light-coloured trousers and tuck them inside tight socks. If you look out for ticks crawling up the outside of your trouser legs you can brush them off before they get inside.

Australia Tick Distribution Map

 

Seasonal occurrence of life cycle of Paralysis Ticks in Australia

In South East Queensland:

  • Larvae appear late Feb to April/May
    (not causing disease)

  • Nymphs March to September/October
    (occasional mild disease, opportunity to gain resistance in tick infested areas)

  • The adult population emerges in August to February, peaking around December
    (disease - tick search daily!)

 

FIRST AID
Removal of the tick can be achieved in many different ways. Never grip the the sac and pull! This may squeeze more venom in, or break the it off and leave the head and 'torso' firmly stuck, which is likely to get infected. These days most people recommend gripping the tick as near to the head as possible with a very pointy pair of tweezers or forceps. Ordinary eyebrow tweezers are not much good because the points are too wide. You can make them more effective by filing the tips away to a sharp point. For larger ticks I personally like making a 'loop' or 'noose' from a piece of cotton thread with a single throw knot (half of a reef knot). This is placed at the base of the body, then slowly and gently closed until it won't slip over the body. Then gently pull on the free ends of thread with a 'to-and-fro' rocking motion until the whole tick comes out. Nothing entertains children more than seeing the little wriggling legs of the removed tick - except the satisfaction of finally squishing the beast!

Try to avoid leaving the head in, as it will become infected. Remember, DO NOT try to pull the tick out by gripping the end part of the body! This almost always breaks off and fails to remove the head and legs.Ticks usually have a firm hold on you once they have dug in. Additionally, there can be quite a lot of swelling around them. This can make them difficult to remove, and so many people have sought means to induce them to 'let go' by themselves, or at least to cause them to 'relax their grip'.
Whatever you do, make sure you kill them afterwards.
For extra protection after removing the tick, dab the area with a topical antiseptic like Betadine Solution or an antibiotic ointment.
If the patient has developed severe symptoms, apply the pressure and immobilisation technique until they can receive antitoxin.

 

MEDICAL TREATMENT
An effective antivenom is prepared from the serum of chronically infested dogs. This should be administered intravenously to all patients with signs of systemic envenomation.

Airway support and ventilation may occasionally be required; equally rarely desensitisation of hypersensitive individuals.

 

SIGNS OF TICK PARALYSIS.

The toxin causes a slowly progressive paralysis by blocking the motor (moving) nerves of the body. The area most commonly affected first is the throat. This can lead to a change or muting in your cat's miaow or your dog's bark. They also have difficulty swallowing saliva and can appear to vomit and may cough, but are actually choking on saliva pooling in the pharynx. Weakness in the back legs and an inability to stand are usually the first signs owners will see . 

Signs of tick toxicity

  • lethargic
  • shaking
  • anxious
  • confused
  • dilated/non responsive pupils
  • panting
  • noisy/laboured respiration
  • shallow breathing
  • salivation
  • vomiting
  • wobbly on feet
  • looks like a back problem
  • incoordination
  • “losing the back end”
  • flaccid hind leg paralysis
  • voice/bark change

If left untreated at this stage the paralysis continues to progress until eventually the diaphragm and intercostals become paralysed and the animal can no longer breathe, and dies.
If your animal exhibits any of the above signs contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

 Paralysis Tick NSW Agriculture PDF