By KIREN THANDI
If Spot's scratching behind the ears a little more than he usually does, it would be a good idea to check him for ticks. The approach of summer may sound like sun and fun to some, but pets may quite literally be itching for winter to return as the summer season also spells tick season.
Veterinarian Dr Vicky McClure of Coffs Harbour Veterinary Clinic said 20 pets were brought in with ticks just last month, an astounding number considering she has a relatively small clinic.
"It's quite an extensive problem," Dr McClure said. "It's not because people don't care about their pets ? it's because they don't realise what a big problem it is."
While there are many types of ticks in Australia, it is the paralysis tick, found predominantly along the east coast, which is potentially deadly to your pet.
Dr McClure said that while the bandicoot is the major natural host for the paralysis tick, any warm blooded animal ? and surprisingly, even the cold-blooded lizard ? is a potential host, and the ticks are quite mobile and can live for a long time without feeding.
"They can travel on luggage when people go camping, or even on clothes when people are gardening," she said.
Dr McClure stressed the importance of taking pets suspected of being bitten by a tick to a vet straight away to give them the best chance of survival.
"Ticks need to be on for at least three days to start causing problems, so if your pet starts to look sick, take him to a vet because the tick's already been there for a few days."
Dr McClure recommends pet-owners check their pet daily for ticks which will help prevent tick paralysis, especially for those living in a tick-infested area, regardless of which tick preventative is used.
It's important to feel all over your pet, paying particular attention to the head and neck, inside the ears, mouth, between the toes and under the front legs and around the anal and genital areas.
The best way to remove a tick is to grasp the tick by the head or mouthparts with a pair of tweezers or 'tick hook', rotate the tick anti-clockwise, and gently remove.