Australia’s leading emergency veterinarians urge cat owners to protect now and avoid unnecessary death as peak tick season starts.
Leading emergency vets in Australia are bracing themselves for the country’s annual paralysis tick season, and while dog owners are increasingly protecting their pooches from this deadly parasite thanks to increased awareness and education, this year emergency vets are encouraging cat owners to join their canine-owning counterparts in proactive protection.
In Australia, it is estimated that at least 10,000 cats and dogs are presented to veterinarians for treatment each year, with many animals dying as a result of just one tick bite. This is despite the availability of long-lasting, effective preventative treatments for both animals.
Director and Veterinary Specialist in Queensland, Dr Rob Webster says there’s no excuse for Aussie cats to die from a preventable disease: “The biggest hurdles that vets face this year is ensuring cat owners everywhere understand the severity and risk of tick paralysis and are aware of the effective preventative treatments available. Pet owners also need to know how to thoroughly inspect their animals daily. Please seek professional help at the first sign of symptoms.”
With tick paralysis cases in cats already being identified and treated by vets, especially along the eastern seaboard, Dr Webster identifies three key areas to tick paralysis elimination for cats:
1. Preventative treatment
Every at-risk cat should have access to effective tick prevention. Pet owners need to be educated on how severe tick paralysis can be and how effective treatments are in preventing this disease and its potentially fatal consequences.
2. Daily inspections
Daily inspection gives the best chance of finding a tick before severe symptoms develop. Use your finger tips to feel the cat’s coat. Start at the head and work your hands down to each foot, ensuring you check every fold and between each claw for any lumps. If you find a tick, remove it immediately with tweezers. Consult your vet now to show you the best removal method.
Cat owners who delay administering preventatives need to stay vigilant because death can occur if symptoms aren’t noticed quickly enough. The key indicators of paralysis ticks for cats include weakness, agitation, unusual breathing patterns and grunts when exhaling.
Australia’s paralysis tick season runs from about September to March – the time when adult female ticks are most abundant1 but can vary region to region. Unique to Australia’s eastern seaboard, the paralysis tick - Ixodes holocyclus - causes a huge problem to tackle locally every year and is the single most dangerous parasite for dogs and cats with just one tick capable of causing paralysis and even death.
Newport resident John Winstanley has had four cats that have been bitten by paralysis ticks. Of the four, two - Simba and Leo – haven’t survived.
His latest cat, Pink Floyd, has been bitten at least six times. Each incident has cost John from $2,000 to $13,000 each visit to the vet.
He regularly checks his cats but he admits that he is not always successful, “Sometimes I find the paralysis tick in time and sometimes, it is too late. It is always the same symptoms. The back legs can’t move properly, they become lethargic and their eyes become droopy.”
Dr Webster continues: “Tick paralysis causes unnecessary suffering. Not many options for protecting cats from paralysis tick have been available in Australia however recent advances in veterinary medicine have seen development in protective options. This is now a preventable disease in cats as well as dogs. Everyone with a pet cat needs to talk to their local vet about new developments in long-lasting preventative treatments against paralysis ticks today”.
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