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What are Tick Paralysis?

When a tick bites your cat it will usually stay attached and continue feeding on your feline's blood until it becomes engorged. A tick that has fed will appear as a lump on your cat's skin, and may look like a large skin tag.

If your pet has recently been bitten by a tick, watch for any signs of illness, from a fever to an inability for to move the back legs. If something appears wrong, it is important to get the cat to a veterinarian immediately.

Tick paralysis is a condition that occurs when a cat is bitten by a type of tick that produces a paralysis-causing toxin. Of the several hundred tick species found worldwide, there approximately 40 have this ability. It is important to protect your cat from tick bites if you live in an area that is known to be home to any tick species. There are different symptoms for each illness that can be caused by tick bites, but a bite from a paralysis tick can literally cause paralysis in cats and other animals.

Tick Paralysis Average Cost

From 312 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Tick Paralysis in Cats

If your cat has been bitten by a tick that can cause paralysis you will notice some visible symptoms that something is wrong. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness in limbs
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Poor reflexes
  • Muscle paralysis
  • Vocal issues
  • Excessive drooling
  • Trouble eating
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Causes of Tick Paralysis in Cats

The singular cause of tick paralysis for cats is the bite of a tick that releases a toxin into the cat’s bloodstream. Not all ticks produce toxins that cause paralysis. Australia and North America are the places most likely to be home to paralysis ticks. These ticks are generally carried by another animal, and then find their way onto your pet when they pass through the same areas

In North America, the two most common ticks that cause paralysis are the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick.

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Diagnosis of Tick Paralysis in Cats

If you find a tick on your cat, remove it with tweezers, grabbing it close to the head to be sure you remove all of its mouth parts. If your cat begins to show any signs of illness, get it to the doctor immediately. If possible, store the removed tick in a jar to take with you to the vet for identification. 

Even after removal, your veterinarian should be able to tell where the tick bit your cat. Blood and urine tests will help your doctor determine the effects of the bite and rule out other illnesses. If they find a tick on your cat during examination they can remove it and send it to a lab for analysis.

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Treatment of Tick Paralysis in Cats

If ticks are found, the first step in treatment will be to remove them. Whether or not ticks were found, or just signs of them, your cat will require an insecticidal bath that will kill any that may not have been found. If your cat is having a severe reaction it will need to be hospitalized for treatment. This could include medical care, respiratory care, and the administration of intravenous fluids. 

Even with treatment, your cat is still at risk. These four typical stages of paralysis can indicate the severity and progression of the cat’s condition: 

  1. Problems walking, wobbly on the feet, and change in voice and eating habits
  2. Vomiting and an inability to move the back feet
  3. Inability to sit or lay on the side, difficulty breathing
  4. Signs of respiratory failure

If the cat has experienced all four stages of paralysis, it’s chance of recovery may be diminished. Older, weaker cats may also have a less optimistic prognosis than healthy, young cats affected by a paralysis tick bite.

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Recovery of Tick Paralysis in Cats

Upon returning home, keep your cat them in a cool environment. The toxins from the paralysis tick work with warm and humid air, so keeping the cat cool can minimize effects. Also, prevent the cat exerting a lot of energy. If your cat has problems eating or can't hold down food, your doctor will recommend ways to keep your cat nourished.

It is important to continue watching for ticks on your cat, especially after any trips outside. Even with medications for tick protection, your cat still runs the risk of a tick bite if they spend time outdoors.

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Tick Paralysis Average Cost

From 312 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

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Tick Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Toulouse

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domestic medium hair

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Drooling
Lack Of Appetite
Meowing

I found a tick on my cat Saturday, I gave him a flea/tick bath and thats when I found it. He had been acting strange the day prior, and its only getting worse. No one will see him until I get paid on Wednesday.

Aug. 20, 2018

Toulouse's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Toulouse I cannot say whether the symptoms are related to the tick found or if there is another underlying cause, tick paralysis is uncommon in cats (more often seen in dogs) and with most ticks the effects wear off after 24-48 hours once the tick has been removed. Keep an eye on Toulouse and visit your Veterinarian when you have the opportunity. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/cat-owners/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders-of-cats/tick-paralysis-in-cats

Aug. 20, 2018

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Roscoe

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tabby

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Spazzing And Eve Meowing
Spazzing And Excessive Meowing

My cat has been running around freaking out and meowing, could something be wrong? I live in an area where ticks are present but he has not gone outside. Should I go to vet

June 16, 2018

Roscoe's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

I'm not sure why Roscoe is running around and crying, whether he is scared, or painful, or being playful. If he seems in distress and it isn't getting better, it might be a good idea to have him examined just in case something is going on with him.

June 16, 2018

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Shira

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

5 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis In Her Back Legs

My kitten was bitten by a paralysis tick and has not shown any other symptoms of the toxin taking affect. But she can't eat or drink and we can't afford the anti-venom. She can't walk or move her back legs. Our vet said to use vet-pay but they knocked us back. The tick was removed by the vet and it has been a little over a 1 day since it was removed. What are her chances of living if she doesn't get the serum?

June 13, 2018

Shira's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Typically removal of a tick (except for Ixodes holocyclus) will result in an improvement of symptoms after 24 hours and recovery within 72 hours; I don’t have any specific statistics to share with you on recovery without tick antitoxin serum (TAS), it is however the treatment of choice in severe cases. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/nervous-system/tick-paralysis/overview-of-tick-paralysis

June 14, 2018

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Monet

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Manx

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Year and a half

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

If my cat had a tick and it wasn't noticed until he slept and wouldn't get up if he did wouldn't stand for long would just flop down had weird breathing and would sound weird looked and sounded as if in pain when moved and would vomit how long till they recover after tick has been removed he is roughly a year old

Nov. 30, 2017

Monet's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Generally you should see improvement within 24 to 72 hours however, if you are in Australia you should visit your Veterinarian as an antiserum may need to be administered for recovery to commence. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/cat-owners/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders-of-cats/tick-paralysis-in-cats

Nov. 30, 2017

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Hades

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Unknown

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9 Weeks

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Seizures
Paralysis
Drooling
Cold
Pupils Dilated

So our little rescue kitten was found laying in its bed limp at around 9pm. At 10am that morning he seemed normally. I picked it up and it seemed unconscious, but breathing. His head rolled and couldn’t move. After a little bit he seemed to wake and moved a paw and arched his head back. We called an ER vet as it was late at night and they said it could be trauma or poison. Both were unlikely as he was confined and no toxins near. Soon after he seemed to seize. After which he got up shakily and ate some food. Soon after he convulsed and went limp again. He seemed aware but unable to move. The vet told us as it was an emergency, they required $375 to bring him in. At this time it’s nearing midnight and couldn’t afford that. We decided since he was somewhat improved we would wait until morning to take him into our normal vet. He didn’t convulse but he continued to arch his head and drool. He also remained limp. I should of seen the signs of respiratory distress, but I didn’t. I decided to lay him on my chest to rest. I woke up a bit before 4am to his head arched back and urine everywhere. He had passed. I have done so much research since to find out what I did wrong or what I could of done. Everything is pointing towards tick paralysis. Does anyone have an opinion on this? I need answers.

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Tiny

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

9 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Dribbling
Dribbling Paralysis Heavy Breathing

Tiny has 2 ticks one big one small this morning, I have removed them and put her in the darkest quietest part of the house, I don’t have the money for the antiserum so I’m just wondering if she makes it will she then become immune and what are recommendations for management while she is sick, she was walking after I removed them but has become week and dribbling a bit since. She ate half a tin of tuna about 7am and I found the ticks at 10am

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Percy

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Persian

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11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

If a paralysis tick bit a cat and the tick died before finishing it's meal or removal, would it be possible to cause the inability to use his back legs or would it just cause some type of infection? My cat has a possible tick, but being a Persian and not willing to let me get a really close look, I have to bring him in for an appointment. He lost the use of his back legs a while ago, but just the ability to support himself and walk on them. He can still move them and has feeling. Every test we ran on him so far comes back as him being a very healthy cat.

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Harry

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Short hair tabby

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Poor Balance
Coughing Sound
Tick Removed 24 Hours Before

We noticed our cat was making a strange noise. It was a bit like a combination of purring and growling. We had removed a tick the day before. Our cat seemed otherwise fine. We decided to take our cat to the vet as a precaution. Lucky we did! The vet advised that the sound he was making was characteristic of a reaction to a paralysis tick. It impacts their nervous system and effects their breathing. She said that while his balance seemed okay when he was on the floor he had difficulty jumping. He was kept in overnight and given anti-tick serum. Apparently this needs to be given over time because it's based on dogs' blood and it can be dangerous for them to have it all at once. They also recommended that his fur be clipped to make sure he didn't have any other ticks because that would counteract the serum. He was sedated for the clipping. We were advised to pick him up early the next day as he was not eating or urinating and they advised that this was a sign that he was distressed. He ate and did an impressive show of emptying his bladder as soon as we got him home. We were told that we needed to keep him quiet for two weeks following the treatment because exertion might (in rare cases) trigger heart failure. It's been two weeks and he seems fine but he is now sneezing on a fairly regular basis throughout the day. He's otherwise fine. I'm wondering if the sneezing is also about his respiratory system being effected and whether or not it's permanent. I'm hoping he didn't pick up something else while he was at the vet hospital.

Tick Paralysis Average Cost

From 312 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

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