Ticks – brown dog ticks, bush ticks and kangaroo ticks

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What is it?

Pets can be affected by several species of ticks. The potentially fatal paralysis tick is only present on the eastern seaboard of Australia [see the Tick Paralysis factsheet]. Other tick species present across Australia include bush ticks, kangaroo ticks and the brown dog tick, and whilst these tick species are not potentially fatal, they can cause local irritation and also transmit diseases.

Why is it important?

The ticks attach to the pet’s skin, burrowing in and sucking the pet’s blood, becoming engorged, and often several ticks can attach at once. This causes local skin irritation, and some tick species can also transmit unpleasant diseases (including babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, haemotropic mycoplasmosis, hepatozoonosis and rickettsiosis) – the latter of which is a potentially infectious disease to humans.

What animals are affected?

Ticks are commonly found in bush areas, frequently along coastal areas and waterways. Ticks can affect both dogs and cats, and pets can be especially at risk if walking through, or living near, coastal bushy areas – with the ticks jumping onto the pets from nearby bushes, or being carried by native animals.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of ticks on pets, is the pet scratching at an area of local irritation. It may be possible to find the engorged ticks amongst the pet’s hair coat. Ticks can also hide under collars, between the digits of the paws, around the gumline and inside the pet’s ears.

What first aid can I do?

Search for ticks on your pet’s body and remove them as soon as possible (it can be worthwhile to bring the ticks in an enclosed container into the vets to confirm identification).

To remove a tick, you can use a special tick remover tool to detach it from the skin, trying not to squeeze the tick’s body.

How is it diagnosed?

The presence of ticks (other than paralysis ticks) can usually be diagnosed through visually sighting the tick either on the dog, or if they have already been removed by the pet owner. Depending on the extent of any clinical symptoms, your veterinarian and vet nurses will usually check all over your pet’s body to ensure no additional ticks remain.

How can it be treated?

Once the ticks are removed, medications may be used to treat any areas of local irritation, and a tick prevention product will also be recommended. If a tick has been recently found on your pet, and the pet develops any further unexplained symptoms, your vet will investigate if the pet may have contracted a tick-borne disease.

How can I prevent it?

  • Apply a tick prevention product to your pet regularly, seeking advice from your vet regarding the most appropriate product to use on your pet.
  • Avoid areas of tick habitat, especially during tick season, and search your pet every day for ticks, especially after exercise.