‘I massively underestimated the danger’: Pet owner’s tick warning after dog’s brush with death

Tick season has arrived and the blood-sucking bugs are back with a vengeance.

It only takes one adult tick to kill a beloved pet, according to one vet who revealed a new protection is set to launch next month.

Sydney dog owner Andrea Crompton had no idea just how dangerous ticks could be when she moved to Narrebeen from the UK in January.

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But a close call with her 10-year-old yorkshire terrier, Foxy, who recently arrived on the Northern Beaches after months of mandatory quarantine, gave her a chilling crash course in the dangers posed to pets.

“I knew when I moved to Australia that all the wildlife tries to kill you, but I didn’t know about this,” she told 7NEWS.com.au.

While Crompton had heard about the danger of ticks from other dog walkers along the coastal path and manicured lawns in the area she walked Foxy multiple times a day, she had thought: “It’s not like I’m walking her through the bush.”

“I knew I had to get her some tick protection because we always flea and worm her, but it was just one of those things that was on my to-do list,” she said.

She noticed something was wrong on Monday when her walk-obsessed dog wasn’t keen to go out.

“She didn’t want to go, and she seemed a bit unsteady, so I brought her inside, and I searched her entire body for ticks. I looked everywhere, I couldn’t find a tick,” she said.

But by early the next morning, Foxy had lost the use of her legs.

She took Foxy to Collaroy Veterinary Hospital at 7am, and a vet immediately located a “massive” tick which had grown exponentially after a night of feeding on Foxy.

“That’s when I broke down,” Crompton said.

“The vet kind of prepared me for the fact that she thought Foxy was going to die, because her legs had already (become) paralysed.

“I massively underestimated the danger.”

She said the vet told her: “The antivenom will mop up anything that her body hasn’t already absorbed. But whatever her body has absorbed, unfortunately, she will have to go through the paralysis. If it gets to her lungs she will stop breathing.”

The toxins spread to Foxy’s bladder, throat, and eyes, meaning she couldn’t control her bladder, eat, or even blink.

But sedatives slowed the rate of the venom spreading further and, with the assistance of IV medications, the paralysis in the other parts of Foxy’s body eventually wore off.

Now, a week later, Crompton is still taking a number of necessary measures required for Foxy to completely heal.

Pet owner Andrea Crompton said she had only walked paths and manicured lawns when her dog Foxy picked up a tick that nearly killed her. Credit: Google Maps/Supplied

While ticks are present all year round in NSW, it is ticks in their adult lifecycle in October, November and December that contain a deadly neurotoxin.

Some social media reports have recently claimed this current tick season has been particularly nasty for the critters, but Collaroy Veterinary Hospital vet Dr Peter Prendergast told 7NEWS.com.au that’s not really the case.

“October, November, and December is the classic tick season, so the cases always ramp up during those times,” he said.

“There’s quite low numbers throughout the rest of the year, and then suddenly there’s this huge spike in late September.

“It leaves people with a sense that the ticks are bad, but really that’s a historical pattern. I don’t think that we’re experiencing more cases than we typically would.”

Ground-breaking new treatment

If anything, he said new preventative medications, usually administered monthly or quarterly, are resulting in fewer tick-related presentations at vet clinics.

And he revealed an even more groundbreaking medication will be launched next month — although he was unable to share the name of the medicine or manufacturer at this stage.

“They’re about to launch a yearly protection for tick control, which will be a game-changer,” Prendergast said.

“It’s expected in December, and it’ll be a world-first — it’s being launched in Australia out of any other country in the world.

“Most (tick preventing medications) are required monthly, or every three months.”

By the time the tick had grown large enough to become noticeable, Foxy had lost the use of her legs. Credit: Supplied/Getty Images

Prendergast acknowledged there was a long list of pet owners need to do to protect their pets, but urged Australians to prioritise tick control.

“I often say, in this eastern coastal part of NSW, that for pet owners there’s an awful lot to think about — there’s worming and heart worm and vaccinations,” he said.

But he warned the consequences of an adult tick bite are among the most serious.

“I would prioritise good tick control, and everything else can fall in after that,” he said.

“Ticks are out there, and they’ll kill animals.

“Ticks have a lifecycle, there are the babies or the larvae, then the teenagers or the nymphs, some people call those grass ticks, and then there are the adults, and it’s the adult ticks that emerge in spring and summer.

“They’re the deadly ones.”

He said ticks throughout the rest of the year “might cause a bit of irritability to the animals, but they don’t have the neurotoxin in them”.

Crompton said Foxy is now receiving tick prevention medication and has a new extra-short hair cut so Crompton can spot any ticks trying their luck in the future.

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