Tick Paralysis

The Australian Paralysis Tick Ixodes holocyclus lives on native animals along the eastern Australian coastal strip. It regularly attaches to domestic animals including dogs, cats, horses, and cattle, and occasionally to humans. The tick injects a neurotoxin which causes progressive paralysis, respiratory depression, and death in animals which have no immunity to the toxin.

Tick paralysis is one of the greatest killers of pets in this area. Here in Mackay, we see cases of Tick Paralysis all year round but the bulk of cases are seen from September to February.

Pet owners need to be aware of the signs of tick paralysis, how to prevent it, and what to do if an animal is affected. The condition is successfully treated provided veterinary attention is sought early in the course.

Tick Description

The unfed female is also yellowish in colour, but, as it engorges, becomes greyish with a brown line (in the shape of a shield) encircling the body. A fully engorged female tick may be 15 to 18 mm in length. Its legs are in a V shape line from its snout down the sides of its body. Of the four pairs of legs, the front and back pairs are brown, the second and third pairs paler in colour.

Clinical Signs

After a tick has been attached for a few days the following signs may be seen:

  • Weakness in back legs, progressing to paralysis
  • Grunting breathing
  • Vomiting/gagging
  • Change of voice
  • Glazed look in eyes

The animal may show any combination of these symptoms.

What To Do If You Find A Tick

This has been an area of great debate over the years. If you can remove the tick by pulling it off with tweezers or fingernails, do so. If you aren’t confident or if it appears to be burrowed in too far, call us and bring your pet in as quickly as possible so we may assist in its removal. Do not use surface spray or irritant solutions such as kerosene or turps as these may stimulate the tick and irritate or burn the skin.

If the animal is showing no symptoms, firstly contact us, as they can deteriorate after the tick has been removed. You may choose to observe your pet for any symptoms or you may choose to bring them to us for a health check and possible treatment.
If your pet is showing any symptoms described above, seek Veterinary attention as soon as possible. Do not wait to see if they get worse. The earlier that they are treated, the higher the success rate.


Treatment varies from case to case with the cornerstone if treatment Tick Antiserum, a hyperimmune serum made from highly immune dogs. Our cases are always hospitalised and given a tick bath to ensure there are no more live ticks. The time to recovery varies depending on stage at presentation and resistance of the patient. These factors can produce quite variable results. Additional treatment such as oxygen therapy may also be required depending on the case.


Animals are discharged when we consider it safe for them to be nursed at home. Your pet must be kept confined, quiet and cool for at least three to four days after they get home. Any signs of deterioration or untoward behaviour should be reported immediately.


Please contact our friendly staff on 4959 2099 or 4951 3799 to find a preventive program to suit your needs.