Paralysis ticks are dangerous parasites that can kill your dog or cat within a few days of signs presenting. Most ticks are found around the head and neck of the animal as well as inside the ears, but they can end up anywhere on the body. In tick season it is important to use a good tick preventive and also to search your pet every day. A small tick missed one day can be found the next and save your pets life.
Paralysis ticks that can kill your pet are usually between 3mm and 10mm in diameter. They attach with their mouth parts making a hole in the skin which can often be painful or itchy. The body of the tick sticks out from the skin. Sometimes a skin tag can be mistaken for a tick. By moving any skin lump around and looking at it’s attachment to the skin you can generally tell the difference. Pulling a skin tag off can be painful and upset your pet, but you wont be the first owner who has done this.
Paralysis ticks can be difficult to pull out as they hold on tightly with their mouth parts and when removed leave a hole in the skin called a tick crater. The tick crater will be 3-10mm across and take a month to heal. As it heals it forms a thick scab. Try not to pick at the scab as it will become infected and sore.
The most reliable way to locate ticks is to systematically run your fingers through your cat or dog’s coat. Press your fingertips down to the skin level and draw systematic little circles trying to cover the whole skin surface. Start at the nose and move along between the nose and eyes. Search in the lips and around the ears. It is especially important to search long haired dogs very thoroughly between the eyes and the end of the nose as this is a common area for ticks to be missed.
Always remove your pets collar rather than just pushing it out of the way. If you find a bump or a sore spot separate the hair and examine the skin. The tick will be attached with the head buried under the skin and the body sticking out from the skin.
Continue running your fingers around the neck, armpits, legs, between the toes, along the tail and around the anus and vulva. Some tick bites are very sore so if you have an area that your pet doesn’t want examined it is best to examine that area carefully in case there is a tick hiding. Ticks can also cause local paralysis. A tick above an eye will often cause paralysis of the eyelids and an inability to blink for up to 4 weeks. Sometimes the face will look asymmetrical giving you a hint that there is a tick hiding somewhere.
We find using a tick hook like the green one shown below to be the most reliable way to remove ticks. If the head is left in, don’t worry as the tick will die and inject no more poison. Always assume there is more than one tick and continue your systematic search.
It is true that animals can develop an immunity to tick poison, but it requires repeated mild poisoning and may last only one season. Even those animals that do build up an immunity can still wind up paralysed if they’re bitten by multiple ticks or a particularly toxic one. It’s not a good idea to count on your pet being one of the lucky ones that develop immunity.