How climate change is affecting tick seasons
You have probably been reading about how Australia has experienced its hottest year on record. NSW has witnessed its driest winter with above average temperatures. There can be no denying that the weather we are having is attributed to Climate Change. Unfortunately, these warmer temperatures are a perfect breeding ground for ticks. Last year reports surfaced that the tick season commenced earlier than usual (particularly in NSW), with vets indicating that they have received a record number of animals suffering from tick bites as early as July/August!
In the past, tick season has been restricted to the warmer months of the year, which is normally Spring and Summer. Ticks require warm and humid conditions in order for them to thrive. If the weather is too dry, or temperature exceeds 32 degrees or drops below 7 degrees then it is hazardous for their survival.(1) As long as the weather remains around mid to late 20 degrees celsius and there is relatively high humidity, ticks are able to propagate. Since Australia’s weather has been above average temperatures and relatively humid for the past year it is no wonder that tick season has spread beyond the confines of the Spring/Summer months. We consulted chief veterinarian, Dr David Hughes, from Concord Veterinary Hospital for insight and he recalls that early last August there were already “6 confirmed paralysis tick cases” at his clinic. He further claims that this Spring/Summer 2013/2014 has been a horrendous tick season with people bringing in their pets suffering from tick bites on almost a daily basis.
Apart from the tick season looking like it is becoming yearly instead of Spring/Summer, it appears that their geographical location is expanding. For NSW, ticks have been mainly confined to the northern beaches and coastal fringes. However, Dr Hughes’ confirmed tick cases (particularly paralysis ticks) have come from “as far south as Epping and Marsfield, and even one from Castle Hill.” Not exactly a settling thought!
For devoted pet owners, it is recommended to regularly check your pets twice a day for ticks, paying close attention to the front half of their body (i.e. head, neck, ears, mouth, paws and collars). There are plenty of products available on the market that repel ticks for dogs (i.e. Advantix), however, the same cannot be said for cats as these products can be highly toxic for them. For cats, the best form of treatment is frontline top spot or spray. If you are unsure whether a tick repellent medication for dogs is suitable for your cat, it is strongly advised to talk to your local vet for further assistance. If your pet starts showing symptoms of a tick bite such as difficulty breathing, loss of appetite and wobbly or unable to walk then you should immediately take them to your local vet for examination and emergency treatment.
(1) Clunies-Ross, I (1935) Tick Paralysis: A fatal disease of dogs and other animals in Eastern Australia, J Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation, 18.