Tick toxicity in cats

What is a paralysis tick?

The paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclis) is endemic to the east coast of Australia. The adult female tick is the main cause of tick paralysis in our domestic animals. It is usually grey in colour with orange legs and head part. The tick itself can be tiny to start with but is usually approximately 4 mm across by which time it causes signs of toxicity. It usually has been attached for a few days before reaching this size, hence ticks found early and removed promptly may prevent signs of toxicity. In our area ticks are present all year round but tend to be worse from August to March.

What are the signs of tick toxicity in cats?

Cats are unique in how they present their signs of tick toxicity compare to other species such as dogs. Signs commonly noticed are:

-Lethargy and quiet behaviour.
-Reluctance to walk more then a few steps before sitting or lying down again.
-Increased breathing effort and changes in breathing noises, especially a “grunting” sound when breathing out.
-Changes in voice.
-Throat clearing type of action where the cat opens its mouth wide with a gagging sound. It is often mistaken as something caught in the throat.
-Difficulty walking, staggering or swaying.
-Lying on its side, unable to sit or stand

How can I find ticks on my cat?

Finding ticks on your cat is best performed by “finger walking” through its coat rather then trying to find them visually. Ticks can hide every where!

The most common areas are:

-Around the head, neck and ears. Sometimes even hiding inside the lips.
-Between toes.
-Front end of the body (limbs, chest, shoulders and under the arms)
-Back end of the body including the tail, bottom and genitalia.
If you find a tick on your cat it is advised to remove it immediately. You may use your finger, tweezers or special tick hooks. Keep the tick for a professional identification and seek veterinary attention promptly.

What can I do to prevent ticks on my cat?

The availability of commercial products that may help prevent ticks is very limited for cats. Many products used in dogs are in fact HIGHLY TOXIC FOR CATS. If you wish to discuss the use of certain products in cats please seek professional attention. No single product is totally reliable for tick prevention and daily “finger walking” is by far the most effective way to prevent tick toxicity. Frontline spray applied every 3 weeks helps in the prevention of paralysis ticks in cats. We also advise to keep your pet away for long grass and bush land and to keep its coat nice and short during tick season.

If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact our team!