Telling tails…


Why do I need to perform a tick check on my pet?

Ticks carry infectious diseases and some, like the paralysis tick, can cause direct toxic harm to your pet so this is one topic where prevention is better than treatment. Unfortunately, no tick preventative medication is guaranteed, so if you’re living or travelling in a tick-prone area then you need to physically check your pet for ticks at least once a day and carefully remove any as soon as possible. The sooner that any attached tick is removed then the less effect it will have on your pet.


When it comes to a tick prevention program for your dog, it’s all about the three step approach:

  1. An oral or spot on tick preventative medication (like Nexgard or Bravecto)
  2. A tick repellent product (like the Seresto collar or Advantix spot on)
  3. A daily tick check (twice a day if you’re in a high risk area)


How to perform a tick check:

Ticks are easier to feel than see amongst your pet’s fur, so use your finger tips to feel everywhere along your dog’s skin from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail. This is called the ‘Finger Walking’ technique. Be systematic and follow the same pattern each time so that you don’t miss any spots. It’ll be awkward at first, but you and your dog will get used to it with practice. You can add a few treats, toys or enrichment distractions (like peanut butter or kibble in a Kong ball) to make it easier for you and a more pleasant experience for your dog. You’re feeling for something that feels like a warty lump that is between 1 and 5mm in size, so they can be tricky to find amongst the fur. Even though ticks have favourite places that they like to hide in, they can be found on any part of your dog’s skin.


The step-by-step tick check:

Start at your dog’s nose, walking your finger tips all over their face. The places where ticks like to hide on the face are under lip folds, so feel in the folds and lift their lips up for a peek, then around and under their ear flaps and around the ear cartilage knobbly bits.

Next, feel under the chin, down the neck and run your fingers across the shoulders. Being sure to run your finger tips all around under their collar, if they are wearing one.

Feel up under their arm pits then down their front legs. The main hiding places for ticks here are between the toes and pads so creep your finger tips into all those little nooks.

Most dogs love a belly rub, so giving a lovely slow massage all over their tummy and back should be the easiest part, carefully checking any skin folds closely and up around their groin area.

The back legs have the same hiding places as the front legs, so feel all the way down the legs and be thorough in the gaps between those toes and pads.

Keep going, you’re nearly there! A lot of dogs are sensitive around their bottom and tail, so a few extra treats or distractions may be needed here. Even if your dog won’t allow you to feel around this area (I don’t want you to get bitten if your dog really doesn’t like it), ticks may be visible if you lift their tail, checking directly under the tail as well as around their bottom and any skin folds. Then walk your fingers all the way to the tip of their tail and you’re done.

Great work!


What do I do if I find a tick on my dog?

Do not squeeze the tick – if it is a paralysis tick then squeezing the body can force more toxin into your dog.

Ticks can bury their mouth parts quite deeply into the skin when they attach, so you need to be sure that you’ve removed the entire tick with it’s mouth parts. Using a tick removal device makes this easier, there are a few different products available so follow the instructions on the label. It is possible to use tweezers but be sure to grab the head, not the body, of the tick to gently twist it out.

If you’re not able or confident in removing the tick, call your local veterinarian for help.

If your pet becomes unwell after you’ve recently removed a tick from them, call your veterinarian immediately as both paralysis tick toxicosis and tick-borne diseases can be deadly. Early treatment leads to better outcomes.

Want to be prepared? The Vet in a Van – Navigator Pet First Aid Kit makes removing ticks easy!


Protect your dog now:

Check out our other blog articles for more information about ticks or Ehrlichiosis then head to and enter the unique code VIAV100R at the top left of the screen for an exclusive discount on tick prevention and other pet supplies.


Would you like to be walked through this Tick Check with Dr Tania?

Grab your dog and click here if you’d like to watch a video version of Dr Tania performing this tick check on our YouTube channel.






*Information provided here is based on information available to us at the time of publishing and not intended as an individual veterinary recommendation for any product or action. You should consult your veterinarian for advice regarding your individual pet and read all product labels and instructions prior to the use of any product.

**By using our discount code, you save money and Vet in a Van receives a small margin on each sale which helps us to keep helping you and your pets.


Most of us have heard of ticks and know that our pets can be affected, but should your pet be on a tick preventative?

There are a few different ticks in Australia that can be a nuisance for our pets, the Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), the Bush tick and, most dangerously, the Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus). They can transmit diseases and the Paralysis Tick can cause a progressive lethal paralysis.

Ticks tend to be found in bushy areas and long grass near livestock or wildlife.

bush cattle brown dog paralysis tick

(image source: Virbac)

tick identification


(image source: unknown)


Tick-borne diseases in Australia:

  • Babesiosis
    • A parasite that invades red blood cells, causing anaemia, weakness, lethargy, pale gums, red urine, yellowing skin, fever and possibly death
    • Transmitted by the Brown Dog tick and possibly the Bush tick over several days, and also via dog bites
    • Mostly in subtropical and tropical northern regions of Australia but has been found in southeastern Australia
    • Dingoes can be infected and act as a reservoir for pet dogs
  • Anaplasmosis
    • An emerging disease most common in northern Australia
    • A bacterial infection that affects the platelets (needed for blood clotting), causing fever, lethargy, weakness, pale gums and bleeding disorders
    • Transmitted by the Brown Dog tick and possibly lice within 24-48 hours of attachment
  • Ehrlichiosis
    • Discovered May 2020 in a few dogs in the Gascoyne and Pilbara, WA, but now widespread through northern Western Australia and the Northern Territory. A locally acquired infection was found in Mt Isa, Queensland, in January 2022. This disease has the potential to spread much further.
    • A bacterial infection causing fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, weight loss, pale gums and unusual bleeding or bruising
    • Transmitted by the Brown Dog tick within 6-8 hours of attachment
    • Found in subtropical and tropical regions worldwide
    • A notifiable disease in Australia
    • For more details, see


The Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus):

  • Whilst they can be around all year, they are most prevalent in late Winter and early Spring when the adult females are emerging to breed.
  • Found along the east coast of Australia, not present in WA, NT or SA. (see map below)
  • Signs of toxicosis include facial droopiness, weakness, cough, trouble breathing, inability to stand or walk and possible death
  • The longer the tick is attached, the more severe the toxicosis and effects
  • Treatment, if discovered early, requires tick antiserum and intensive care hospitalisation

paralysis tick distribution

(image source: unknown)

Luckily, we can help prevent these issues by:

Using a reliable tick preventative medication on your pet:
    • Spot-ons, chews and tick collars are available, each with pros and cons for use. Chat to your vet about which suits your pet better and see our blog post on Parasite Preventatives for more information.
    • Don’t be tempted to use ‘natural’ methods, the consequences of a tick bite can be disastrous so it’s worth investing in effective preventatives.
    • Current veterinary advice for areas with Ehrlichia (NT, northern WA and northern Qld) is to use a tick repellent/killer (such as the Seresto collar) in combination with a preventative (such as Nexgard or Bravecto).

Order tick prevention online and protect your pet today – use code OBAY at checkout for free shipping.


If you are travelling or live in a tick prone area, check your pet thoroughly every day for ticks:
    • The most effective technique is ‘finger-walking’ as ticks are easier to feel than see amongst your pet’s fur. This is done by starting at your pet’s nose and slowly walking your finger tips along the skin all over your pet’s body, being systematic and following the same pattern each time:
      • Head – ticks like to hide in lip folds and ears, so check closely
      • Neck
      • Shoulders
      • Front legs – especially between the toes and foot pads
      • Back and tummy – hiding places include the arm pits and groin
      • Back legs – between the toes and foot pads, again
      • Bottom and genitals – double check under the tail and in any skin folds
      • Tail
    • Ticks can be tiny and easily missed, so checking daily may find a slightly bigger tick today that was missed yesterday.

Want a more thorough explanation? Check out our Tick Check Guide


Remove any ticks correctly and as soon as possible:
    • Distract your pet with food or a treat
    • Part the fur around the tick
    • Using a tick removal device, grasp the tick as close as possible to your pet’s skin, then twist slowly and firmly to pull it away from the skin, trying to keep the tick intact.
    • Pulling too quickly may cause the tick’s mouthparts to break off and remain in your pet’s skin. If this occurs, it can be removed with tweezers or by scratching with your fingernail.
    • Tweezers are not recommended as a removal tool as they can squeeze the tick, causing more toxin to be injected into your pet.
    • If you do not have a tick removal device, please call your veterinarian to have the tick removed as soon as possible. Waiting for the tick to drop off is not recommended as the longer it stays attached, the more likely that the paralysis toxin or infection has serious consequences.


One of our responsibilities as travelling pet owners is that we don’t contribute to spreading diseases and vectors (like ticks) further than their current endemic zone, so preventative actions are important not only for the health of your own pet but for all of us.



Keep your chosen parasite preventatives handy by storing them in your Vet in a Van – Navigator Pet First Aid Kit


*Note that tick preventatives may not be safe for all species (some dog medications are toxic to cats and rabbits), so please follow the label and seek veterinary advice before use.

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