The tick we are discussing here is the Brown Dog Tick (Ripicephalus sanguineus). Brown dog ticks are very common in coastal Queensland anywhere north of Rockhampton. Brown Dog Tick infestations can be a VERY BIG household problem in allTownsville suburbs. It is important to point out here, before going any further, that the common Brown Dog Tick that we have trouble with in Townsville is quite different to the kangaroo tick, the cattle tick and the scrub tick.
There are all sorts of myths and misinformation about dog ticks. Unfortunately frequently, self styled “experts” on this subject, talk nothing but rot. This article may be a bit lengthy, but now is the time to get it all sorted out – before “tick time” catches up with us (as it always does) towards the end of the calendar year.
Brown Dog Ticks (BDTs) are active all year round, but they are most active in the summer months, especially after rain. Big hatch-outs and stage-moults occur in response to atmospheric conditions. Dog owners with sudden tick infestations happening at home are often surprised and bewildered by the event.
Once they gain a firm foothold, it is a very big task to get rid of BDTs. Unless dealt with thoroughly, they will (quite literally) breed up more quickly than you can kill them.
- Contrary to popular opinion, certain Townsville neighbourhoods are not particularly tick prone. If you have a BDT problem, this is not because you live in a “ticky” locality - it is because someone has been careless in the past and ticks on the dogs have been able to breed up.
- It is a very big mistake to think that just a couple of ticks now and then don’t matter. A couple of ticks now can easily translate into a couple of thousand for years to come. All tick stages can “rest” for months (and sometimes years) to “flush out” later on and take everybody by surprise.
- The most commonly noticed life-cycle stages of these ticks are the adult males (like small flat brown spiders), adult females (fat, softer, bluey grey – small legs up the front) and the nymphs which are dark blue/black and about 2-3mm in size. The first life-cycle stage is so tiny as to be most often not seen at all – these are the larvae which have just hatched from the eggs.
Brown Dog Ticks can kill dogs. Infestations of all stages and combinations of stages can be so bad that in just a couple of days all the dog’s blood is sucked out! It happens! Brown Dog Ticks can also transmit “tick fever” (Babesiosis) which causes malaria type symptoms in dogs. It is important to know that:
- Each fully engorged female lays 3 000 eggs.
- The eggs hatch out in batches but only when the humidity and temperature is right.
- Some years are worse for ticks than others. It depends on the weather and the “resting” burden carried over from the year before.
- Tick eggs are resistant to pesticides. Because of this, the ticks often seem to keep coming back despite area treatments that you think should be working better.
- Ticks are arachnids… they are not insects. Ordinary insecticides are not effective.
- The number of ticks on the dogs at any one time is just a tiny fraction of the overall population. Ticks actually spend most of their time off the dog between blood meals.
- “Off dog” ticks find the smallest of cracks and crevices to “lie up” in. They can survive for many, many months without shifting. They also climb really well! Under bricks, between pavers, behind skirting boards… even in the roof!
- You will never beat a tick infestation with the old “dog dip once a week” routine.
If you have a dog tick problem…. it is beatable, but you have to get onto it properly.
Current WSVC approach:
There are excellent treatments available for dog ticks these days. The old baths and washes have been superceded by modern spot-on and tablet medications.
We consider one of the best treatments and preventions in Townsville to be Nexgard - this is given as a monthly chewable tablet. It is easier to reliably administer than some spot-on treatments and is still effective if the dog gets wet.
We also sell environmental products to spray under and around houses in very severe cases but we generally find that Nexgard does the job nicely these days.
Call the clinic if you think you have a tick problem… If you are serious about getting it sorted out, we can do that for you.
We are incredibly lucky in Townsville that we do not seem to have paralysis ticks in our main suburbs. The few cases we do see in dogs and cats come from high up on Harveys Range, or are animals from outside our area.
However if you are traveling outside town with your pets please come in and ask for advice on prevention as these ticks are a deadly threat in other areas of Australia and even in localities close to us.