Tick paralysis is a serious condition that can affect our pets during tick season. Tick paralysis is caused by a neurotoxin found in the saliva of some female ticks (Rocky Mountain wood tick or commonly called the wood tick). Not all female ticks carry the toxin, and not all pets develop paralysis after being bitten. The paralysis develops approximately 5 to 9 days after the tick attaches to the host (your pet). Hind limb weakness is the first sign of tick paralysis; this can then progress to forelimb weakness, then full paralysis. If left untreated, cranial nerves can be affected causing facial weakness, voice changes, trouble swallowing and decreased muscle tone. In very severe cases the respiratory muscles become paralyzed which can result in death.
Diagnosis is based on the clinical signs, finding a tick on the patient and rapid resolution of paralysis after the tick is removed. This disease can be confused with several other diseases so it is very important to visit your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Prognosis is very good provided the entire tick, including the mouthpiece, is removed.
Here at the Kamloops Veterinary Clinic, we see between 2 to 5 cases of tick paralysis per year. Prevention is the best treatment. There are several products available to keep you and your pet safe during tick season. For more information, please call the clinic to discuss what the best option is for your pet.
Written by Kamloops Veterinary Clinic