Health | 1 Min Read

How to check for ticks

[and everything you need to know about the deadly Paralysis Tick]

With so many unreal locations to explore, Australia is a dog’s playground. Unfortunately it’s also home to a number of tick species; Bush, Brown Dog and the dangerous Paralysis Tick. These parasites can put a real dampener on outdoor adventures but thankfully serious illness can often be prevented. Here’s what you need to know.


Ticks thrive in humid, warm weather but can be found across the country throughout the year. The Paralysis Tick is commonly found along the east coast of Australia, however there have been reported cases inland, in parts of Western Australia and even in Melbourne.


Ticks attach to the skin of your dog to feed off their blood.The female Paralysis Tick has a toxin in her saliva, which is injected into the dog as she feeds off their blood. The longer the tick is attached, the more dangerous it becomes and more severe the paralysis. 


This toxin causes progressive paralysis, often starting with the back legs. Other signs can include lethargy, a change in bark, regurgitating, coughing, vomiting, salivating, inability to blink, difficulty urinating, panting or breathing difficulty. Tick paralysis is potentially fatal, so affected dogs need to be seen by a vet immediately, no matter how mild the signs are. Early treatment can be life saving.

Dr Lisa’s guide to tick inspection

  1. Know your dog’s coat. Regular brushing and grooming will put you on the front foot. 
  2. Be systematic with your tick inspection: slowly walk your fingers through the coat, feeling the skin for lumps. If you live in a tick prone area, do this daily. If you’ve travelled to a tick area, check your dog daily while you are there, and continue checking for 2 weeks after you return. 
  3. Start at the face: inspect around the eyes, under the lips and around the gums including the roof of the mouth.
  4. Move up towards the ears. Check the ear canals and folds, gently inspecting in and outside the ears. 
  5. Work down the neck and around the folds. Remove the collar. 
  6. Continue through the neck and into the shoulder, inspecting each section down the leg and to the paws. Gently inspect the crevices in your dog's pads. Move back up the leg and repeat on the other front leg.
  7. Continue inspecting through the coat on the sides, back and belly. 
  8. Check each hind leg, repeating the process through the paws. 
  9. Follow through along the entire length of the tail. Look underneath the tail and around the anus and genitals.
  10. Return through the body for a thorough check of the back and belly, including armpits. 
  11. Take your time. Make the check methodical. Have a handful of Crumble to reward and reassure your dog as you go. Or use Lick Mat as a delicious distraction.
  12. Ticks can hide in the folds of skin so pay close attention to the paws, anus, ears and mouth.
  13. If your dog has a long and thick coat, you may want to consider clipping them especially if you live in a known tick area.
  14. If you suspect tick paralysis contact your vet immediately. Withhold food and water, keeping your dog cool, quiet and minimise stress or excitement as this can make the paralysis worse.

Prevent, inspect and protect

There are a number of tick preventatives available. They can be taken orally or applied topically to the coat but it’s best to discuss with your vet what the right treatment for your dog should be. 

For cat owners, it’s important to note that certain dog tick preventatives are highly toxic to cats, so check with your vet which products are safe.

While these preventative measures are terrific, they aren’t always 100% effective, so it’s important to inspect your dog’s skin and coat daily, especially throughout the warmer months. 

Attached ticks feel hard, smooth and round. If you’re familiar with removing ticks, use a tick remover or tweezers to twist and pluck from the skin. Retain the tick for identification at your local vet. Alternatively, get to the vet immediately for removal. The longer you wait, the worse the changes of paralysis are.

Medical disclaimer:

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