Ticked Off: Preventing Australian Paralysis Ticks From Attacking Your Cat

Finding ticks on your cat is never a pleasant experience, but for many Australia cat owners finding a live tick on their cat is a potential medical emergency. Ioxdes holocyclus, more commonly known as the Australian paralysis tick, is a small round tick with a virulently toxic bite—an untreated paralysis tick bite can cause a range of debilitating and dangerous symptoms in cats, ranging from vomiting and breathing difficulties to the eponymous paralysis, which can ultimately be deadly.

While paralysis ticks are mainly encountered in hot, humid regions of Australia's eastern coasts, their populations are not static, and inland cats should also be protected from paralysis ticks, particularly during the warmer months. Fortunately, there are a range of simple and effective ways you can protect your cat from these insidious parasites.

How can I protect my cat from paralysis tick bites?

A number of preventative tick treatments, either available over the counter or via your veterinarian, can be used to effectively deter ticks from attacking your cat:

  • Collars: While insecticidal collars are generally more effective against fleas than ticks, they can still provide protection for an active cat who spends most of their day exploring. However, they only provide protection around the head and neck area of your cat, and while these are the areas most vulnerable to tick bites a paralysis tick can attach itself to any part of your cat's body. Check for any allergic reactions your cat may have to the insecticidal chemicals in the collar, such as rashes.
  • Spot treatments: These are small amounts of powerful insecticidal medicines which are applied to the back of your cats neck, and can provide effective, whole-body protection against paralysis ticks. However, many over the counter spot treatments are geared towards fighting smaller parasites such as fleas and mites, and may not be strong enough to effectively kill all ticks -- obtain a tick-specific treatment from your vet for best results.
  • Powders and sprays: These treatments are applied directly to your cats fur and skin, and provide effective but short-term protection against paralysis ticks. Some powders and sprays can also be used to treat areas of your home and garden where your cat may pick up tick bites -- paralysis ticks tend to hide in foliage and wait for potential hosts to pass by, so applying anti-tick treatments around your house plants, outdoor shrubs and flowerbeds can kill ticks before they ever get near your cat. These treatments are well suited to more sedentary house cats. 
  • Dips: If your cat is an adventurous outdoor cat, it is probably used to being subjected to frequent baths, and incorporating tick dip chemicals into your cat's bathwater is a good way of minimising the distress and discomfort involved in applying some other tick treatments. However, tick dips are made from powerful chemical compounds that need to be heavily diluted to use safely, and you should consult your veterinarian before applying any tick dip to ensure your cats safety.
  • Oral treatments: Oral tick treatments for cats can be an effective tick deterrent if used regularly and correctly, but they can be very difficult to find. Your vet may be able to provide oral tick treatments specially formulated for cats -- alternatively, they may recommend that oral medication for small dogs be used instead. While this can be equally effective, you should never do this without prior approval from your vet.

For more information, contact clinics like Belmont Avenue Veterinary Hospital.