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Managing ticks PDF Print E-mail

pet care Pets and people are at significant risk from tick bites and, especially from the native Paralysis tick Ixodes holocyclus, which can cause paralysis and kill pets. Paralysis can also occur in small children.  Pets can also be affected by the introduced cattle and bush ticks, but to a lesser extent.

Some people have severe allergic reactions to paralysis tick poison (which can occur at all life stages of the tick) requiring immediate medical attention. Paralysis ticks can also pass on spotted fever disease to humans, also known as tick typhus, which is caused by the injection of a bacteria-like organism into the bloodstream. Treatment is essential. People with pets must be aware of these serious tick impacts.  For details see

Paralysis tick lifecycle

The Paralysis tick has a four-stage lifecycle – egg, larva, nymph, adult and needs three hosts to complete this lifecycle. This is where pets and humans come in –as hosts! Other hosts include bandicoots, possums and echidnas.

To find a host the tick goes through a process known as ‘questing’. This is important because it’s when we are likely to come in contact with them. During questing a tick climbs to the top of nearest vegetation and waves its forelegs around to make contact with any passing host. Heat, vibration and carbon dioxide are known to activate questing. Females and males both quest but it’s only the female that is looking for the ‘blood meal’. For more details see

Paralysis ticks are found along the entire east coast of Australia. Adults are seen from late winter through to summer, then larvae from late summer to autumn, and nymphs in late autumn through winter. Known predators of the Paralysis tick include insect-eating birds and parasitic wasps.

Low-hazard tick management:    

It’s said that the best defence against ticks is a good offence. Underpinning this is an understanding of tick habits and breeding cycles, avoiding contact and regular inspection.

  • Cut back vegetation along paths and places where pets and people walk frequently to avoid contact with questing ticks
  • Ticks don’t like dry conditions so reduce foliage cover in areas where you frequent so that sunlight penetrates to the ground
  • Encourage predators such as insect-eating birds and parasitic wasps
  • Discourage potential hosts from the immediate area around the house
  • Call in a tick collector if you have a significant problem – yes they do exist to collect ticks for production of antivenin used on pets
  • Wear insect repellents when walking in tick-prone areas
  • Wear light coloured clothing in tick-prone areas as ticks are easier to see. Remove clothing and take a shower if possible, or thoroughly inspect clothing and body
  • Have a set of gardening clothes that you remove immediately before coming back inside, wash the gardening clothes before re-wearing
  •  Restrict animals from entering ‘tick areas’ such as bushland
  • Thoroughly inspect your pet daily for ticks
  • Remove ticks as soon as possible and wash the area with soap and water
  • Check with your vet before you use a chemical tick prevention product such as a collar or spot-on concentrate as no products give 100% control

Tick removal

There is a lot of conflicting advice and misinformation about the safest way to remove ticks such as kill in situ with pesticides, dab with various potions and even burn the attached tick! These methods are NOT advised by poisons information centres.

Safe tick removal:

  • Identify the tick if possible
  • Do not to touch or agitate the tick in any way as this encourages it to inject more poison
  • Remove the tick with tweezers by grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible to ensure that the mouthpiece and head are not left in the skin
  • Remove the tick with straight, firm and steady movement without squeezing the body or rotating the tick
  • Wash the affected area with soap and water and apply antiseptic
  • If you are unable to do this, see your doctor or veterinarian to remove the tick

Other tick removal devices such as the ‘Tick Twister’ which are specialised tweezers for tick removal, are veterinary approved, and have been recommended by people living in tick-infested areas. The same process is used as for tweezers removal. They are available from pharmacies. See:

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