The VIC Tick Threat

September 20, 2016

As you may have seen on ABC, Channel 7, Channel 10 and across many metro and regional Victorian radio stations, paralysis tick infestation cases are confirmed in many postcodes around Victoria.  Here is the press release and tick maps for those wanting more information about this growing problem.

This information has come from a study Merial (NEXGARD) have supported.



New study uncovers first cases of the deadly eastern paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) in dogs and cats in the Greater Melbourne Area


Melbourne, Monday 12 September 2016 – As Australia enters the tick season (September –
April)* pet owners across Greater Melbourne are being warned to be particularly vigilant after 14 cases of tick paralysis1, including two fatal incidences, have been documented in the area.
Normally present along the Eastern Seaboard of Australia, the deadly eastern paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus, has been reported at 32 postcodes in the Greater Melbourne Area and appears to be more toxic and life-threatening than the familiar southern paralysis tick, Ixodes cornuatus.

New research by parasitologist Professor Stephen Barker2, supported by a grant from animal health company MERIAL, sought to highlight the emerging problem and threat facing Victorian pet owners.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Barker says, “This new study is the first to systematically
document eastern paralysis ticks in the Greater Melbourne Area. It seems that eastern paralysis
ticks are travelling to the Greater Melbourne area by either hitching a ride on pets from areas where the tick is endemic, or through hitching a ride on people that visit Melbourne from areas where the tick is endemic.”


Hotspots across the Greater Melbourne area where eastern paralysis tick and/or the southern paralysis ticks have been reported include:

1. Bullengarook, Gisborne, NE Gisborne (3437) - 17 reported cases of tick infestation
2. Chum Creek, Healesville and Toolangi (3777) - 7 reported cases of tick infestation
3. Pakenham (3810) - 5 reported cases of tick infestation
4. Melbourne (3000), Donvale (3111), Dandenong (3175), Silvan (3795) and Eltham (3095)
- 4 cases of tick infestation
5. Emerald (3782) - 3 reported cases of tick infestation


MERIAL’s Technical Services Manager, Dr. Jennifer Hamilton, commented: “Although the number
of reported cases of infestation with the eastern paralysis tick is fairly low, the consequences for
pets can be deadly. We feel it’s important to alert pet owners in Victoria about this emerging threat now so that we can raise awareness of the signs to look out for and the best way to manage a pet that may be affected.”


Tick paralysis can be present in different ways but more common clinical signs include:
• Vomiting
• Loss of appetite
• Lethargy
• Altered pupil size
• Changes in breathing sound or pattern
• Altered ability to move, particularly with the back legs
• A change in gum colour
• Change or loss of voice (bark or meow)
• Coughing
• Cannot blink in one or both eyes


If these signs are detected it is vital that the pet owner seeks immediate veterinary attention,
minimises stress to the animal and removes any ticks that are found as quickly as possible.
Removed ticks should be kept for identification purposes.


Case Study Details
• 'Casper', a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel-cross, owned by 16yr old Maxim Fisher from St Kilda, East Melbourne
• Casper was given to Maxim for his fifth birthday
• Maxim was distraught to see his active pet dog struggling to walk and having difficulty breathing one day and immediately took him to the vet with his mum
• The local vet found an eastern paralysis tick on Casper’s shoulder and diagnosed tick toxicity
• This was a huge surprise for the Fisher family, since Casper had not left East Melbourne in the previous six months. He had however been taken for a walk each day to a park frequented by dogs and their owners
• Casper was treated with antiserum and fortunately made a full recovery
• 18 months later, Casper again suffered from tick toxicity. As before, he had not left East
Melbourne in the previous six months. Fortunately he again responded to treatment and one week later was back to his normal happy self


Maxim’s mother Helen Fisher said of the paralysis tick toxicity:

“The threat was not something we had been aware of, so prevention had never crossed our minds.

Of course we try and be as careful as possible with Casper’s health but this wasn't a threat we

knew about to consider. We hope the publication of this study will inform other pet owners of the real paralysis tick danger in Victoria and the importance of using a tick control product regularly before another incident occurs.”

Dr. Hamilton adds: “We recommend that pet owners learn more about the dangers of the eastern paralysis tick, and encourage them to undertake daily tick searches of their pets. If ticks are found, they should be removed immediately and kept for veterinarian inspection. Additionally, owners should regularly use a product that protects against ticks. MERIAL’s NexGard®3 is an easy-to-administer once a month beef flavoured chew that protects dogs against both fleas and ticks.

It can easily be given with or without food, just like a monthly treat, without the need for tricks or coaxing. For cats, we recommend FRONTLINE® SPRAY4 to protect against eastern paralysis ticks.”







About NexGard
NexGard can be given with or without food and is also suitable for puppies from 8 weeks of age, weighing 2kgs or greater.
NexGard is available in Australia at leading veterinary clinics and pet speciality stores.
For more information on how to protect your dog from ticks and fleas using NexGard, please visit or see product label for full claim details.
MERIAL is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products that focus on disease prevention and overall health and wellness in animals, MERIAL has three main business areas: pets, farm animals, and veterinary public health, and our health solutions target more than 200 diseases and conditions across a variety of species. MERIAL employs 6,900 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide with over €2.5 billion of sales in 2015. MERIAL is a Sanofi company. For more information, please see; @MERIAL
About Stephen Barker (PhD)
Stephen Barker is a Professor of Parasitology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
3 See product label for full claim details and usage instructions.
4 See product label for full claim details and usage instructions. For paralysis tick control on cats use FRONTLINE® SPRAY every 3 weeks.

Professor Barker has been studying ticks and other ectoparasites at for 25 years. Recent activities include: (i) a monograph, with Dr Alan Walker (University of Edinburgh) on the “Ticks of Australia. The species that infest domestic animals and humans” (2014, Zootaxa, 3816); (ii) research on the paralysis ticks of Australia, Ixodes holocyclus (paralysis
tick) and Ixodes cornuatus (southern paralysis tick).


Media Contact
Beatrice Chew
Tel. +61 02 8303 6415


* Please consult your veterinarian regarding the risk of ticks in your area. Tick seasonality may be different in some areas.
1 Evidence was reported in 10 dogs, 3 cats and 1 human.
2 Barker, S.C., Hamilton, J.A. & Barker, D. (2016). Ixodes holocyclus, the eastern paralysis tick, and Ixodes cornuatus, the southern paralysis tick, are epizootic (cycling from time-to-time in some
years) at some postcodes in the Greater Melbourne Area; and I. cornuatus is enzootic (cycling from year-to-year) at other postcodes in the Greater Melbourne Area, Australia. Report. (17 pp).
School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, Faculty of Sciences, The University of Queensland, QLD 4072.

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