Myth 3: My dog always needs tick protection

Updated November 29, 2020

I think the popularity of vet television shows might explain why this could be my most common question from dog owners:

Do Dogs In Adelaide Get Ticks?

Ticks are eight-legged blood-sucking parasites which attach to their host and engorge with blood. In Australia there are many tick species, mostly associated with a specific native host species, and a few imported ones. But there is one tick which looms large in the minds of pet owners- the paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus.

This guy is truly scary. He’s common near bushland and causes a progressive paralysis that eventually cause respiratory arrest and death. Click here for a paralysis tick map plus tick prevention tips for dogs and cats.

Are There Ticks In South Australia?

brown dog ticks

Though you may never see them, there are many species of ticks present in South Australia. Most are quite harmless, and only target certain species. The picture is of ticks removed from a dog who had come down from the north of the state. These are likely the Brown Dog Tick (no, that doesn’t mean they only infest brown dogs) and are only harmful in the transmission of blood parasites. The large ones are almost fully engorged with blood.

The Good News

Thankfully the one tick that every dog owner fears isn’t everywhere. The paralysis tick is not found anywhere near South Australia. The distribution is mostly to the east of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland, NSW and Victoria associated with its bandicoot host. The closest locations recorded have been the western suburbs of Melbourne. National media programs and articles made on the east coast often forget people actually live anywhere else in Australia!

But there is one very important thing to remember. If you travel to these places, you should get in touch with the local vets and ask them if you should be using prevention. It’s not uncommon for pet owners to accidentally expose their pets simply because they were not aware of the local danger. Then you can imagine the problems we have trying to make the diagnosis when back in a paralysis tick- free area.

Here’s a last thought for the weekend. Have you ever given a thought to the plight of endangered parasites? Every species on the planet is likely to have highly adapted and specialised internal and external parasites, protozoa, bacteria and viruses which have co-evolved with their host species. Now imagine what happens when a host species becomes extinct.

Should we shed a tear for the thousands of species which also die when this happens?

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These articles are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!

Andrew

9 Replies to “Myth 3: My dog always needs tick protection”

  1. Hi Andrew

    Are the other tick species a serious concern? If we suspect our dog has one is it a urgent or minor matter?
    Cheers

    1. Hi Michael. All tick species can be potential vectors of blood-borne infections like Ehrlichia and Babesia. However, these are only likely in endemic areas and therefore, most ticks are only a minor nuisance. You can visit your vet, or buy a tick removal tool from your local pet store.

  2. If corona virus can travel to every continent on earth within a year it is a dangerous self righteous myth to assume Ticks that cause paralysis Cannot cross the boarder into South Australia. I live in South Australia and Im looking at my dog who i pulled a tick off of two days ago and he is very sick, Here are his symptoms in chronological order; a little bit of a limp ….Gate listing of to one side As he walked, not eating much but still drinking, lethargy only getting up to move about for more water drinking but then regurgitating the water, limping More pronounced and then only moving if he absolutely Has too. Can you spell Lyme disease?? Limping, swollen paws which are hot to touch sunken eyes from dehydration from vomiting up water. Pull your thumb out SA you got ticks and they are bad ones. Protect your dogs from ticks even if you live in SA.

    1. Hi Anna. That’s an interesting view point and not an unusual one. While the possibility cannot be excluded, there is no evidence of Lyme disease being present in Australia. As these symptoms can be caused by many common diseases, it’s important to see a vet and rule them out before considering the rare ones.
      Having said this, I agree with you completely about prevention. It’s now so easy to prevent ticks on dogs and cats (at the same time as fleas and mites) that everyone should do it regardless. This link gives a review of common tick products available in Australia.

    2. I think a paralysis tick just killed my kelpie. The symptoms fit, although I’ve lived on east coast I’ve mostly lived in Adelaide. So it didn’t occur to me until after it was too late. A Sydney friend suggested it sounded like a tick and I realised that she was probably correct. Sad that I nor vet considered it as a possibility. He could have been saved.

    3. I thought I pull a tick body out of my dog i lost it on the floor, when I rang the vet they told me we don’t have ticks in SA, my dog started getting very sick couldn’t walk week back legs, loss of appetite, jerking neck when drinking and so on, took her to the Vet got bloods done, told me it wasn’t good. And told me she wouldn’t make it through the night, I needed to consider putting her down in the next 2 hours, I said I couldn’t do that now because I needed more time. I’ll keep her over night. The next morning she was still with me and still showed no suffering. So I decided to look at the erea where the tick I thought was it was weeping and still pinkish red and what looked like a bite hole in the middle. I took a picture and went to the vet. I gave it to the receptionist and she took it out and showed the vet, came back and told me he didn’t think it was a tick bite, didn’t even come out to have a proper look. I decided to get her a tick tablet I gave it to her yesterday, and she woke up today got up done 2 U Turns on the bed laid back down and ate some biscuits. Considering she couldn’t stand up 24hrs ago it seems like the tablets was working, I’ll have to wait for another 48hrs to make sure but at the moment it starting to look good she’s drinking more and eating more, but at the moment I’m not certain if it’s because of the tick tablet. Her blood counts were really bad but we will see
      Rick

      1. Hi Richard. The symptoms you describe are not typical for tick bite, and the diseases caused by ticks would not respond to the tablet unless another one was still attached elsewhere. Tick-based disease is also unknown in the Adelaide hills and so there is likely to be another explanation.

  3. My father’s dog is sick…they cannot find the reason even after many tests..I read about ticks and the symptoms that the dog has are very similar..my dad ask the vet today could the dog have ticks and the reply was “there are no ticks in Sth Australia..I read this information and accordingly we can…what can I do.

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