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.
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:
- Weakness in limbs
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Poor reflexes
- Muscle paralysis
- Vocal issues
- Excessive drooling
- Trouble eating
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.
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.
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:
- Problems walking, wobbly on the feet, and change in voice and eating habits
- Vomiting and an inability to move the back feet
- Inability to sit or lay on the side, difficulty breathing
- 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.
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.