Local veterinarians are encouraging pet owners to vaccinate their pets and utilise tick prevention methods following increased reports of infected animals this season.

In the last month, the Disease Watchdog database has recorded 54 cases of tick paralysis along the eastern seaboard, predominantly in coastal areas and dense bush lands.

Veterinary surgeon Dr Michael Cannon said the Illawarra community should be vigilant in the future coming months.

“Ticks have been more prevalent this season than in recent years,” Dr Cannon said.

“At least one case is brought into the practice per week.

“The ticks are stimulated to hatch by high ambient temperature and moisture, so warm days after a bit of rain, like we have had recently, are danger times.”

Ticks latch onto people and animals and inject a neurotoxin into the bloodstream of their host; the toxin affects the nervous system, causing progressive paralysis of the legs and breathing muscles, as well as damaging the heart and lungs. Other symptoms include excessive salivation and vomiting, loss of appetite, loss of voice and changes in gum colour and pupil size.

“If treated we can save nearly all of them,” Dr Cannon said. “But there are some animals that do not respond to the treatment and despite our best efforts, they can die.”

The overall mortality rate for tick bites in Australia is between five and 10 per cent. This means that out of the 10 thousand dogs affected each year, five hundred to one thousand will die.

Medical treatment required for tick paralysis can be costly and time consuming for owners. Last week, Wollongong local Jesse-Lee Latimer, was charged over five thousand dollars in vet bills after she found that her poodle Kingston had been bitten.

“We went for a bush walk on the weekend and when we got home his front right leg seemed to be sore,” she said.

“Two days later he was off balanced and looked drunk…by Thursday morning he couldn’t move.

“We found a tick hidden deep in his fur. Now he has to stay at Sydney vet hospital undergoing treatment for a week.”

The tick season typically extends from September to March, but cases of tick paralysis can occur at other times of year. It is important to protect your pets with a tick prevention product and search them for ticks daily.

If you are concerned that your pet has been bitten by a paralysis tick or are showing signs of tick paralysis, contact your vet immediately.