An alarming rumour has been circulating the vet community this week that an explosion in dogs affected by deadly paralysis ticks has led to stock levels of the lifesaving antiserum treatment reaching rock bottom. A call round of local vets, producers and wholesalers confirms that this is the case with things unlikely to improve for some weeks.
This lack of antiserum means that dogs here in Sydney, New South Wales and the wider east coast of Australia face the real possibility of dying should they receive a significant paralysis tick bite.
The take home message couldn’t be clearer. Use effective preventatives now more than ever to make sure your dog is protected, or you may be in for a painful lesson.
Tick Paralysis – The Problem
Tick paralysis is a deadly disease found in coastal areas of Eastern Australia. The ticks bite the affected animal and spit venom into it. The venom causes a progressive paralysis of the muscles, including the heart and chest muscles. Affected animals usually die because they cannot breath or pump blood effectively round their body. The treatment is an antiserum produced here in Australia and is highly effective if given in time.
A dry year up until now has meant the producers of the tick antiserum have had fewer ticks to use in the production process, leading to smaller volume and slower production than usual. So stock levels were naturally low and unfortunately the product doesn’t have a long shelf life so “good harvest years” don’t help keep stock levels high.
Couple this to the fact that we have had a very wet and humid “summer” which has triggered an explosion in cases locally and you have a supply and demand nightmare. Lots of cases, not enough medicine.
When asked if this was likely to cause serious problems for dogs in NSW soon, Australian Veterinary Serum Laboratories director Dr Nick Jones said “It is likely that there are already dogs in the state who are dying because their vets can’t get hold of the antiserum.”
Following on from this startling comment, Dr Jones also said that a large emergency centre was reported to be running low on stock as well. Though our out of hours provider SASH have assured us that their supplies are not critical at this stage.
Dr Lisa Chimes, star of TV show Bondi Vet, who works at SASH made the following comment on twitter “We are seeing more severe cases this year with many animals requiring ventilation. Fortunately we have antiserum because we ordered extra!”
The issue was further highlighted to us in the clinic this week as we have seen an upturn in the number of cases treated. Not usually a high tick area, we have dealt with four new tick cases in Double Bay Vet Clinic in the last seven days. In each case the dog contracted the tick locally. Happily we can report that following treatment with the anti-venom they have all made an excellent recovery and are doing well.
Tick Antiserum is in Stock – For Now
At the beginning of the week we were lucky to receive a fresh shipment of the antiserum. So both the clinic here in Double Bay and our new sister clinic in Pyrmont are well supplied. But that is no reason for complacency as we could soon get through this stock and run into difficulties on the other side.
The take home message from all of this is that prevention is better than cure. If everyone took tick control seriously and gave the medicines as they were intended, most cases would be preventable. So here, once again for the sake of clarity, are our updated recommendations.
Effective Tick Control
In Sydney we are usually happy to recommend a suitable top spot applied every 2 weeks and regular tick checks, but given the current crisis we are increasing our recommendation as follows:
1. Apply Advantix or Frontline every 2 WEEKS to your dog from now until April.
2. Use a Preventic tick collar and replace it every 2 months.
3. Give a dose of Proban every other day.
4. Perform a daily tick check up and remove any ticks you find with tick twister.
5. Consider shaving your dog’s coat short – this helps keep them cool and makes effective tick checking possible.
No single therapy is entirely effective but by using combinations, keeping your dog’s coat short and doing daily tick checks you will be keeping your dog out of harms way. Indeed there is no harm in doing all five things together.
With vigilance and use of the appropriate medicines then no pets should die from tick paralysis. If you have a dog owning friend then please send this article to them or retweet to your fans or followers on twitter or facebook.
If you are a vet and wish to reprint this article then please do so, just post a link back to the blog as acknowledgment.
All products are available from the clinic and we also do coat clipping, so call reception to discuss your needs. 0293634045.