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What are Tick Paralysis?

Your dog’s risk depends on a variety of factors, including the prevalence of ticks in the environment. In the areas of the southern United States, ticks prevail all year; while in areas with colder winters, ticks thrive only in the spring and summer. Tick paralysis is most common in the southeastern United States, the Pacific Northwest, and the Rocky Mountain states. Your dog’s risk factor depends more on your environment and behavior than on breed. Toxicity does not directly correlate to the number of ticks found on your dog or their size, but rather depends upon the individual tick and the dog’s susceptibility. The exact pharmacology of the specific toxins that cause tick paralysis is yet to be determined, but they work by inhibiting the release of presynaptic acetycholine at neuromuscular junctions, leading to paralysis.

Tick paralysis or toxicity is an acute motor paralysis caused by neurotoxins produced in the salivary gland of certain species of ticks. The toxins cause lower motor neuron paralysis, or a loss of voluntary muscle movement.

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Tick Paralysis Average Cost

From 14 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,100

Symptoms of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Your dog may display the following symptoms, which will worsen over time. Symptoms begin to display between five to seven days after the tick attaches itself to your dog. If you see your dog beginning to display any of the following, particularly if your dog has been in an area of heavy vegetation or exposed to other animals, seek veterinary help immediately.

  • Vomiting
  • Trouble standing/sitting still
  • Muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate, or tachyarrhythmia
  • Partial loss of muscle movements, or paresis
  • Complete loss of muscle movement, or paralysis
  • Poor reflexes or loss of reflexes
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Excessive drooling
  • Asphyxia
  • Difficulty eating
  • Impairment in vocal sounds, or dysphonia
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Causes of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Tick paralysis is caused salivary neurotoxins from an engorged, egg-laden female tick of the following species: American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), Deer tick or Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis).

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Diagnosis of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Prompt diagnosis depends on your thorough reporting of the onset of your dog’s symptoms, as well as any potential incidents that could have led to your dog picking up ticks. Be sure to report if your dog has recently been in thick vegetation in the last several days or weeks.

Further physical examination will be conducted to determine the extent of your dog’s muscle paralysis. Your dog’s muscle tone will be analyzed physically, and reflexes will be tested. Decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes are a sign of paralysis.

The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination in order to find ticks or evidence of tick bites. Any ticks that are found will be removed, and the veterinarian will often send them to a laboratory for species analysis. It is important that the veterinarian is the one to remove ticks in the case of tick paralysis, because they will ensure every part of the tick is removed and no further toxins are affecting your dog.

To rule out any other diseases that may be causing your dog’s symptoms, a blood count measuring white and red blood cells, a chemical blood profile measuring blood sugar and proteins and urinalysis measuring kidney functions will be taken and analyzed for abnormalities. In the case of respiratory muscle paralysis indicated by trouble breathing and/or elevated carbon dioxide and decreased oxygen levels found in the blood, radiography may be used to examine the size of your dog’s esophagus: an enlarged esophagus is a sign of labored breathing.

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Treatment of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

In the majority of cases, removal of ticks from your dog will lead to a reduction of symptoms within 24 hours and total recovery within 72 hours. Your dog may be given an insecticidal bath in order to kill any ticks that may have been missed (particularly with a heavy coat or other factor that may hinder finding all of the ticks). While tick paralysis is very easy to treat, untreated, it can lead to death by respiratory paralysis. For this reason, it is imperative to seek treatment immediately.

Depending upon the extent of tick paralysis at diagnosis, your dog’s symptoms may need to be treated in order to aid recovery. In severe, advanced cases, your dog may need to be hospitalized and treated for stress with a tranquilizer or opiate, dehydration with intravenous fluids, fatigue with anesthesia, vomiting with antiemetic therapy, heart or respiratory distress with ventilation, or congestive heart failure with diuretics and oxygen therapy.

If your dog ends up in a state of severe dehydration, intravenous fluids will be given immediately. Alongside intravenous fluids, medications will be provided that can be used to counter the effects of the toxins on the nervous system, and to relax your dogs muscles so that they can breathe.

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Recovery of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

When diagnosed in time and properly treated, there is a 95% chance of total recovery. Even with treatment, there is a chance of death, which increases with the amount of time your dog is infected with the toxin and left untreated.

During recovery, keep your dog in a cool and calm environment and avoid physical activity. If your dog is still having digestive problems, follow your veterinarian’s feeding instructions carefully. This may involve withholding food until the stomach settles, or feeding via syringe.

In order to prevent further cases of tick paralysis, keep your pet on preventative medication during the appropriate season, or all year round, depending on your climate. Check your pet for ticks regularly, and particularly after they have been in heavily vegetated areas. If you have a yard your dog regularly plays in, keep up with landscaping in order to discourage tick infestation.

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Tick Paralysis Average Cost

From 14 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,100

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Tick Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Sooty

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Pugapoo

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3.5 years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

I’d just like to know if it’s possibke for my dog to recover once he’s in a coma on a ventilator in hospital. They got the tick out and treating him currently, I’m so worried he won’t be okay

Nov. 19, 2017

Sooty's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Generally in the majority of cases, removal of the tick results in improvement within 24 hours with recovery in around 72 hours but some species of tick may take longer; Sooty is in a critical condition and the mortality rate for tick paralysis is around 10% so we need to be cautious. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/nervous-system/tick-paralysis/overview-of-tick-paralysis

Nov. 19, 2017

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Archer

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Labrador coon hound +mix

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1 3/4

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hi my dog is nearly 2. He has been house trained very well for over a year. But lately i take him for his regular 3-4 walks a day and after going to the bathroom outside i will bring him into the house and have to leave for work or doctors appt. I come back 1-4hours later And he will have peed everywhere and have popped on the rug(fully formed). Or the other day for example we walked him later than normal 10pm just to make sure he would sleep through the night. I woke up at 4am to him walking all over the room(not unusual but hadn't since this in a few months). He walked over to me when i told him to lay down and i thought i smelled poop.. though he farted on his way over... well i wake up at 7am to pee all over my husbands shoes clothes and a blanket i put laid out near the end of the bed. Our laundry basket and floor from one end of the room to the other coveted in his urine. And that he had pooped in our shower. As we cleaned it up he was fine. But as i go to grab the leash to walk him he snuck into the bathroom and peed everywhere again as i am realizing what just happened i went to put the leash on and found he had already pooped(45seconds after peeing) on my rug(formed).. i wad beyond upset at this point.... And when i go to ask him what he just did he bared his teeth and started growling at my husband and myself..... what could cause this sudden change in behavior?

Nov. 6, 2017

Archer's Owner

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0 Recommendations

I cannot think what would have caused this behaviour but you need to start keeping him on a short leash, all behaviour like this (and this does sound like a behavioural problem) needs to be promptly followed up with a punishment whether it is leaving him in another room or outside for a period of time. This may need a Behaviourist to help guide you since these cases are never simple to resolve. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 6, 2017

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Tick Paralysis Average Cost

From 14 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,100

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