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Tick & Flea Prevention for Australian Dogs

Spring is finally here and this means more outdoor activities for you and the fur kids: more visits to the local dog park, the beach, bushwalks, maybe even a week-end away in the country?

So what are the facts about Tick Prevention?

There are three types of ticks in Australia: Bush, Brown and Paralysis ticks and without doubt the single most dangerous parasite for dogs is the Paralysis Tick, which can affect both dogs and cats. The peak season for the Paralysis Tick (Ixodes Holocyclus) runs from August to March on the eastern seaboard of Australia. 

62% of owners treat their dogs for ticks every 3 months or less frequently and 57% of dog owners treat for fleas every 3 months or less.

Dr. Katrina Warren and Riley
Media veterinarian Dr. Katrina Warren issued a strong warning to Aussie dog owners saying "protect your dog against paralysis ticks or be prepared for the consequences, including death."  

She added that "over the past twenty years I have seen heart-breaking situations where people have lost their beloved dogs to tick paralysis or spent thousands of dollars in vet bills. Preventative treatment coupled with daily searching for ticks on your dog(s) is absolutely essential."

RSPCA NSW’s Senior Veterinarian Dr Christina Zhu is warning all pet owners to check their pets thoroughly for any signs of ticks. 

"Native animals are a host for ticks,” said Dr Zhu. “So if you have blue tongues, birds or possums living nearby, you probably also have ticks about."

Don’t think it can’t happen to your dog because you live in a flat in the city or suburbs: a simple walk in long grasses is sufficient and just one tick is capable of causing paralysis or even death. 

Ticks are dangerous parasites that attach to the dog to suck blood from them. The paralysis tick produces a toxin in its saliva which is passed on to the host animal when the tick feeds.

This toxin affects the dog’s nervous system, leading very quickly to severe impairment or death.”

Sadly without treatment, almost 100% of affected dogs will die.

The sooner your pet is treated, the better chance of survival they have. If you notice ANY of the following symptoms, then you MUST take your pet to the vet immediately.

  • Change of bark 
  • Lethargy, depression, decreased ability to exercise
  • Loss of coordination in the hind legs (wobbly or not being able to get up)
  • Loss of appetite, retching, coughing or vomiting
  • Heavy, laboured or rapid breathing

One common sense tip is to completely avoid the tick habitat. So during the tick season, don’t take your dog walking in bush areas or scrub areas known to harbour ticks. Keep your lawns and shrubs short and remove compost material from backyards.

Your dog’s fur should be inspected daily for ticks, especially for the long-haired breeds. A thorough tick search involves working your fingers deep into your dog’s coat to check all parts of their skin. Around 70% of ticks are found attached on the front half of the pet and could be hidden in areas like skin folds or even their ears.

The paralysis tick will look different depending on whether they are engorged with blood or not. 

When engorged with blood, they will have a blueish to light-grey/grey colour.

When removing a tick, avoid disturbing the body of the tick (don’t squeeze the body) instead aim to remove the tick by its head at the point of insertion into your dog’s skin. 

A useful aid is a tick remover - a fork-like device that will slide either side of the tick without touching the body of the tick and helps remove the tick easily (

If you find a tick, remove it immediately and take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Remember to also continue to search for more ticks. Some dogs can be infested with many ticks at one time.

Until recently protection from ticks was commonly gained from products requiring either a fortnightly or monthly topical (spot-ons) application, collars, tablets, washes and sprays

A new innovative class of parasiticides was launched in the Australian market in 2015, delivering up to 3 months protection against fleas and 4 months against the paralysis tick.

Dr. Zhu adds "You should seek advice from your veterinarian on the best form of tick prevention for your dog."
You also need to choose the dosage appropriate to your dog’s weight, treat as frequently as required and educate yourself on how the product actually works. 

Prevention is better than potentially losing your pet (or at least a very hefty vet bill) and we encourage you to seek advice from your local vet about the best prevention products against ticks and fleas based on your dog’s medical history.

Note: Never use any dog tick control products on your cats as some dog products are highly toxic to cats and can kill them.

It is important to note however, that no tick preventative products are 100% effective in preventing ticks from attaching or feeding, therefore it is still extremely important that you continue to search your pet daily and immediately remove any ticks that are found.

All you ever wanted to know about fleas... but were too afraid to ask!

Few dog owners are fortunate enough to avoid an eventual run-in with fleas! 

Even with regular bathing and grooming, they are a common and most unpleasant experience for dogs (and their owners!). 

Not only do they cause itching and discomfort but they can lead to allergies, severe dermatitis, transmission of other parasites and infestations can cause more serious problems like anaemia.

Fleas thrive in moist, humid environments which is why they're a much bigger problem in the summer months.

A flea starts feeding on your dog’s blood within five minutes and may suck blood for up to 2 ½ hours! 
A female flea lays 40-50 eggs each day (as many as 2,000 eggs during her short lifespan) and it could take up to 8 weeks to remove an infestation once it is established in a home. 

You will need to use a product that actually breaks the flea life cycle (eggs, larvae, pupae) as well as regular vacuuming, washing and drying bedding in sunlight and using products like flea bombs.

New products on the market these days make it easier to protect your dog from fleas and claim to be less toxic. It is generally accepted that products using only permethrin as their active ingredient usually don't work well because fleas have now built an immunity to this insecticide.

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