An engorged female paralysis tick.
An engorged female paralysis tick. Rob Webster

How our cute marsupials hide ticking time bombs

WARWICK'S cute and furry marsupials hide ticking time bombs that could suck the life out of four-legged members of your family.

Paralysis ticks normally live on Australian native animals such as possums that are essentially immune to the parasite's neurotoxins - nerve poisons.

But dogs and cats are not immune to ticks.

Within hours of just one tick attaching to your pet's body, the animal's muscles and its respiratory system will most likely become paralysed and it could be dead in four days.

Dr Richard Malik is one of Australia's leading experts on paralysis tick - known scientifically as Ixodes holocyclus.

Dr Malik said each year about 10,000 Australian dogs were poisoned and at least 500 of those died.

Pet Insurance Australia data shows that eight Southern Downs dogs were treated for tick paralysis in the past 12 months.

Dr Malik said animals living in areas with strong populations of marsupials were particularly at risk.

"In south-east Queensland, Brisbane and the North Coast of NSW, the tick season is longer and the disease is even more common,” he said.

Dr Malik said the cure was simple - give dogs a five-monthly chewable treatment and a cats a collar.

He said a $50 tablet could save dogs and ensure owners aren't slugged with a $5000 to $10,000 vet bill.

A Dalmatian with advanced tick paralysis is mechanically ventilated.
A Dalmatian with advanced tick paralysis is mechanically ventilated. Rob Webster

"You used to have to wash them with a treatment or make them wear a flea collar, but if they went for a swim it would wash off,” Dr Malik said of the old way of treating dogs.

"The flea collars deteriorated in the sun so they don't work that well.

"It was never an easy fix.”

Dr Malik said insurance companies were reporting significant drops in paralysis claims and that could be because tick treatments were becoming easier to apply.

"The claims are down about 30% - both the number of cases and the money spent,” he said.

With the tablets, ticks that jump "onto the animal have a little feed then they die”.