Paralysis Ticks in Cats: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

The Australian paralysis tick is a potentially deadly parasite that can cause tick paralysis in cats. It’s important to know the signs to look for and how to protect your cat.

Paralysis ticks in cats
Paralysis ticks in cats

What does a paralysis tick look like on cats?

Paralysis ticks vary in appearance depending on how much blood they have consumed from a host – they feed on blood and they get bigger the longer they have been feeding. One way to differentiate a paralysis tick from other species of ticks is that the first and last pairs of legs of paralysis ticks are darker in colour (brown) compared to the middle two pairs of legs (beige). Identifying the species of a tick can be difficult, even for the experts, so it’s best to contact your veterinary clinic for advice.

Life cycle of paralysis ticks on cats

There are four stages of the paralysis tick life cycle: egg, larva, nymph and adult. Adult female paralysis ticks are primarily responsible for cases of tick paralysis. They are found in highest numbers in spring and early summer and this is the highest risk period for tick paralysis, although cases can be seen all year-round.

Symptoms of paralysis ticks on cats

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Cats may develop one or more of the following paralysis tick symptoms:

  • Change in voice (meow)
  • Loss of coordination in the back legs (wobbliness), which may progress to include the front legs.
  • Difficulty standing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Gagging and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

If you notice any potential signs of tick paralysis in your cat it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately.

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Treatment of paralysis ticks on cats

Treatment of paralysis ticks on cats involves removal of the tick as soon as possible with a tick removal tool or tweezers. The treatment of tick paralysis will vary depending on the severity of the condition. Your veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate treatment. A tick antitoxin serum is available to neutralise the effects of the toxin. Cats will typically need to be hospitalised for supportive treatment and care while they recover from the effects of the toxin. In very severe cases, cats may need to be placed on a ventilator while they recover.

Paralysis tick cat recovery

The recovery time from tick paralysis varies – some cats require hospitalisation with intensive care for several days or even weeks. It is important to strictly follow your veterinarian’s discharge instructions. For example, it is vital to rest your pet and restrict physical activity for 2–3 weeks after coming home from hospital.

Paralysis ticks in cats survival rate

With appropriate treatment, most cats will recover from tick paralysis, however, the care they require can cost thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, some cats will die despite the best veterinary care. For these reasons, using tick prevention strategies is critical.

Paralysis tick prevention for cats

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One of the most important ways to protect your cat from paralysis ticks is to use an effective tick control product like NexGard SPECTRA® Spot-On for Cats all year-round. Monthly treatment with NexGard SPECTRA® protects cats against paralysis ticks, as well as bush ticks, fleas, mites, heartworm, lungworm and intestinal worms (including tapeworms). It provides the most complete parasite protection, all in one easy, monthly application.

Although tick control products will control most of the ticks that your cat may be exposed to, it only takes one tick to cause tick paralysis. For this reason, paralysis tick prevention should also include performing daily tick searches on your cat if you live in, or you and your pet are visiting, a known paralysis tick region.

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  • How to remove paralysis ticks on cats?

    If you find a tick on your cat it is important to remove it as soon as possible with a tick removal tool or tweezers. Grab the tick adjacent to your pet’s skin (at the tick mouthparts), twist the tick, then pluck the tick away from the skin. Take care not to squeeze the tick’s body. If you are unsure, it’s always best to speak to your veterinary clinic who can assist you.

  • Where are paralysis ticks found?

    The eastern paralysis tick is the cause of most cases of tick paralysis in cats and dogs in Australia. It is found along the east coast of Australia from North Queensland to Victoria.

  • Are paralysis ticks dangerous?

    Yes, paralysis ticks are very dangerous parasites. A single adult female tick can kill a cat or dog if left untreated.

  • How long does a paralysis tick take to affect a cat?

    Signs of tick paralysis typically develop after a tick has been feeding on a host for 3-5 days.



Cat Parasites
Ticks In Cats

Paralysis ticks are a deadly parasite than can cause tick paralysis in cats. Bush ticks can also cause harm to cats. Learn more about ticks and how to protect your cat.

Cat Parasites

Parasites may be small, but they can be a big problem for your cats. Protect your cat with NexGard® SPECTRA Spot-On for Cats. Click to find out more!

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