“Roaming Vet” Romy Feldman has advised pet owners to be cautious particularly when taking animals on holiday, as different regions have different pests and treatments needed.
“It is important to be informed about the risk in their area and any hot-spots that come about, like tick cases recently reported as coming from Rushcutters Bay Park in Sydney and some parks in the north,” she said.
Feldman said some key symptoms of tick infestation are wobbliness or weakness in the back legs, difficulty jumping or climbing stairs, loss of appetite or changes in your pet’s bark or meow.
She added that symptoms can be easily mistaken for other illnesses, and that the typical first signs are not always present.
“I’ve had cases where the first sign noticed by the owners was increased effort breathing and the animal was actually getting around without noticeable ataxia,” she said.
“The main thing is that owners are educated about the common and uncommon presentations so that if an animal becomes unwell in a tick-prone area they are encouraged to have them checked out at the vet.”
Feldman said many pet owners are unaware of the potential of ticks to kill their animals.
“My feeling is that most pet owners have a vague idea that ticks are about somewhere and can make animals sick but that’s about it,” she said.
“Tragically, it does not hit home until their own or someone close’s pet experiences tick paralysis first hand that the devastation and financial reality of treatment sinks in.”
She recommended pet owners comb their animals over a white wet paper towel or white sheet so that flea faeces will dissolve and appear like dark red blood.
Human and pet bedding should be washed regularly at 60 degrees to prevent infestation in floor coverings and pet furniture.
Feldman has been involved in an information campaign about paralysis ticks, and has been instrumental in the creation of a website for pharmaceutical company Bayer, www.theadvantagefamily.com.au.
“It would be nice to raise awareness of the fact that paralysis ticks are the most dangerous parasite for dogs on the east coast of Australia,” she said.
“I think a big problem is they don’t look harmful as dramatic as say a snake or spider, if they were very large and had enormous fangs that would probably help.”
Picture Bjørn Christian Tørrissen