Tick paralysis is a very dangerous condition that can quickly and seriously affect your dog or cat. It is important to know the signs and symptoms so that you can spot them and save your beloved pet. If you fear that your pet has been affected by tick paralysis, otherwise known as tick poisoning, don’t hesitate to contact your local emergency vet.

Definition of Tick Paralysis

Tick poisoning is a serious and potentially fatal condition that requires immediate veterinary attention. It is caused by a neurotoxin that is produced in the salivary glands of female ticks. When a tick attaches to and feeds off your pet, this neurotoxin will release into the bloodstream, producing paralysis.

Symptoms to Look Out for

Whether or not you have located a tick on your pet, there are a few signs and symptoms that you should look out for. You may start to notice these symptoms in your pet 2 to 7 days after being bitten by a tick.

Things to look out for:

  • Heavy breathing (panting, noisy breathing, grunting)
  • Wobbly legs, especially in the back. Inability to stand and more frequent sitting  and weakness when jumping or walking up stairs.
  • More paralysis throughout trunk, upper extremities and head
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy salivation
  • Collapse

Tick Paralysis Treatment

Once your pet is diagnosed by a vet, the next step is to promptly remove the tick. The vet will examine your pet and grade its level of tick paralysis. A sedation will then be given and your pet will receive tick antiserum which mops up circulating tick toxin. Due to the small risk of an adverse reaction to the tick anti-venom your pet will need to be closely monitored during this time. Ten percent of patients will have two or more paralysis ticks so clipping the coat may be recommended. In addition to coat clipping further topical insecticide maybe advised by your vet. The average patient requires 3-5 days in hospital to recover, although in milder cases they maybe discharged earlier. If the tick paralysis has progressed to the stage of respiratory distress, the vet may need to provide supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilation until the effects of the neurotoxin wear off.

Tick Paralysis Prevention

The best thing to do is to try to prevent your pet from being bitten in the first place. You can do this by avoiding any areas that you know to be endemic with ticks.
You should check your dog or cat for ticks on a daily basis, especially if you live on Sydney Northern Beaches or North Shore. During the summer months, NEVS can treat more than 100 pets per week for tick poisoning, so keep an extra eye out in the spring and summer. We see cases of tick paralysis year round so strongly advise year long tick prevention. There are many topical and oral products on the market, talk to your local vet about which products they recommend.

Other steps you can take include keeping long coats short during spring and summer, keeping cats indoors, and keeping a clean, well-maintained garden.

Don’t delay if your pet is experiencing signs and symptoms of tick poisoning. Bring them into Northside Emergency Veterinary Service for fast, professional treatment. Call us now on (02) 9452 2933.