Early start to tick season 2018 brought on by warm winter

Sweet Pea Animal Hospital practice manager and veterinary nurse, Sam Blake.
Sweet Pea Animal Hospital practice manager and veterinary nurse, Sam Blake.

A warm winter across the Lower Mid North Coast region may see an early start to tick season, warns Sweet Pea Animal Hospital practice manager and veterinary nurse, Sam Blake.

“Ticks generally start to increase in mid August, but if we have a wet, warm spring they might come out earlier,” Sam said.

“The weather may impact when tick season starts, but not necessarily how bad it will be.”

Chewable treatment options have seen a reduction in the number of tick paralysis cases in dogs over the past few years, however it is still as important as ever to be vigilant with not only dogs, but cats too.

“As they are a systemic treatment, chews are far more effective than what we had before as they are not impacted by bathing or swimming after treatment,” Sam explained.

At this stage, the chews are only available for dogs, meaning cats are not as well protected; a problem that is exacerbated by the fact a lot of owners don’t treat their feline friends regularly.

“People tend to think cats that live inside are safe, but even if you have an indoor cat, ticks can be carried in by outdoor pets or even their owner,” Sam said.

“Making sure your cat's tick treatments are up to date is just as important as treating your dog regularly.”

For cats, Frontline spot treatment is a good option, and should be applied every three weeks.

Dogs chews are sold by a number of brands; Nexgard and Simparica provide monthly treatments, while Bravecto offers a three monthly treatment.

“The chews combat fleas as well as ticks, and even though tick season tends to die off in April, there are still cases year round so very important to continue treatment,” Sam said.

Early symptoms of tick paralysis to look out for in pets include lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting or coughing, a change in voice and wobbly back legs.

“If your pet can’t jump into the car, onto the couch or other usual spots, that’s a key sign,” Sam added.

Alongside treatments, pet owners are advised to check their animals regularly, removing any ticks as quickly as possible. 

It generally takes two to three days for an affected pet to show symptoms of tick paralysis.

“If you see any symptoms, take them straight to the vet and don’t give them any food or water,” Sam said.

“This can cause them to aspirate which could mean pneumonia, and that is often what they die from.

“It’s also important to then watch for symptoms because where there is one tick there may be more.”