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We are seeing a large number of larval tick cases causing skin lesions and irritation on dogs and cats.
Larval ticks are the first life stage of the paralysis tick. They jump onto the animal from a bush and cause intense irritation (chewing feet or legs or rubbing face), agitation and hyperactivity. They look like small black dots on the skin, often with surrounding redness. They can be anywhere on the body, but are most commonly seen on the feet, legs and underside of the abdomen. They are most commonly seen at the end of tick season (December onwards) but can be seen all year round.
They themselves do not cause tick paralysis but are suggestive of other life stages of ticks in the area which can cause tick paralysis.
Treatment is antihistamine and steroid injections from your vet to reduce itchiness and irritation and Frontline Spray to kill the larval ticks. Unfortunately the standard, even new generation (Bravecto, Nexgard, Symparica, Revolution Plus), tick preventatives do not kill larval ticks although they are very effective at killing other life stages. So your pet wont get tick paralysis when it is on these medications but unfortunately can still get irritated by these larval ticks.
Generally a one off treatment is enough, but occasionally the itchiness can recur approximately 24hrs later once the injections wear off. We have also seen ‘repeat offenders’ who have a particular area or bush they like to go to and get reinfested. Due to the risk of other life stage ticks in the area we would recommend making sure you are also up to date with your standard tick prevention. Oral preventatives can be given immediately, but we would recommend waiting a week for top spot products as it is unknown if Frontline spray affects the absorption of other products.
Further prevention of recurrence can be provided by trying to avoid access to or cutting down bushy areas in the garden as necessary.
Dr Martine Perkins
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