A vet holds up the ear of a dog, showing the tick infestation.
A vet holds up the ear of a dog, showing the tick infestation.

No antivenom for tick season

ONE of the wettest springs on record is producing one of the worst tick seasons in history.

According to the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) the tick season started early and has been widespread.

However,` while the mild winter and wet conditions have been ideal for ticks this year, the previous years of drought have hindered laboratories’ ability to produce enough antivenom to cope with the onslaught of ticks this year, resulting in a shortage.

Veterinary wholesale distribution companies have reported that the antivenom is out of stock.

The antivenom is a natural product and not synthetic, so the process to produce it is involved and time consuming. The antivenom can only be made during tick season and, due to the dry conditions last year, there was not enough stock to cope with the demands of the season this year.

A recent pet owner survey has shown that around 30 percent of pet owners are unaware of paralysis ticks and the risks they pose to their pets.

Veterinarians are therefore appealing to pet owners across the east coast of Australia, where paralysis ticks are found, to use preventative treatments fortnightly during tick season to make sure that their dogs don’t get bitten by ticks.

Bayer Animal Health vet, Dr Bob Rees, said many pet owners will soon travel to coastal areas where ticks are rife for the holiday season.

“Whilst laboratories are working hard to produce enough antivenom to alleviate the shortage in the next few weeks, it is important to understand the risks and symptoms of tick paralysis and how to prevent your pets falling victim to these dangerous parasites,” Dr Rees said.

He was urging pet owners to use repellents every two weeks and to check for ticks every day.

“The best way is to feel, not look, for ticks. Start in the common places such as the head and neck, but make sure you search everywhere, including the ears, around the eyes, under the collar and between toes.

“The telltale signs of tick posioning include weakness in the hind legs or staggering, which may be followed by paralysis, vomiting or regurgitation, a change in a dog’s bark or cat’s meow due to paralysis of the throat and voice box and laboured breathing which may include a ‘grunting’ sound.”



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