TICK season has come early this year due to the wet weather and dog and cat owners are being encouraged to prevent serious harm or death by checking their pets regularly for the little suckers over the coming months.

Experts at the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) are warning dog and cat owners to be vigilant, particularly in tick prone coastal areas.

“Tick season usually runs throughout the year in the north and from spring through to autumn in southern areas,” said Dr Phil Brain from the Australian Veterinary Association.

“However, this year we are seeing lots of ticks very early on in the season, probably due to the all the wet weather we have been having.

“Dogs playing in tall grass are particularly susceptible, with ticks often found around the head and neck, as well as on the chest and the front leg; however they can latch on to any part of your dog or cat.

“If it has a tick, you’ll often see your dog staggering due to hind leg weakness from the tick toxins. A really sick animal will also gurgle and choke and will be unable to bark properly due to paralysis of the throat.

“They may also start to cough when eating or drinking, or may cough up water or food. Some animals may also develop problems breathing. It is vital to take action immediately if you notice any of these signs,” said Dr Brain.

Ideally in tick prone areas you should be checking your pet daily. You can do this by running your fingers through the coat to feel for anything unusual. In cats they are often around the back of their neck where they cannot groom. Sometimes more than one tick will be found, so don’t stop looking even if a tick has already been found.

“Your veterinarian can give you further advice on tick prevention products and how to remove ticks. If there is any concern you should contact your local vet for advice, as even after removal of a tick there is usually progression of the signs over the next 24 hours,” said Dr Brain.

Preventing ticks
You can help prevent your pet from getting ticks by asking your vet to suggest a tick and flea treatment or collar.

What to look for:

  • weakness in the back legs;
  • appearing ‘wobbly' and uncoordinated;
  • coughing;
  • change in tone of bark;
  • difficulty breathing and swallowing;
  • drooling; and
  • vomiting.

If your pet has one or more of these symptoms you should contact your vet immediately.

How to check for ticks
To check your pet for ticks carefully feel all over, paying attention to the head and neck area, inside the ears, mouth, under the tongue, between the toes, and around the rear.

When removing a tick it’s a good idea to wear gloves. Common places you might find a tick on your dog are its ears and the skin around their ears or their lips.

Ticks can live anywhere from four and a half months up to 14 months.

How to remove ticks
The best way to remove a tick is with tweezers.

If you do find a tick on your pet it is important that you let your pet rest, keep it cool and relaxed and do not give it food or water. You should then contact your vet immediately for advice.

* Advice from AVA website

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