Tick paralysis in dogs

photo: australiapetdoors.com.au

What in the world is tick paralysis? It sounds like a disease that leaves ticks paralyzed; unfortunately, that’s not the case. Tick paralysis is a rare but serious condition caused by ticks.
Tick paralysis, or tick-bite paralysis, is caused by a potent toxin that is released through the saliva of certain species of female tick and which is injected into the blood of the dog as the tick infests the skin of the dog. The toxins released by ticks cause lower motor neuron paralysis, which is defined as a loss of voluntary movement and which is caused by a disease of the nerves that connect the spinal cord and muscles. With lower motor neuron paralysis the muscles stay in an apparent state of relaxation.

Dogs usually develop symptoms within 2-7 days of being inoculated by a tick. Since tick paralysis causes an ascending paralysis, the rear limbs are initially affected. At first the animal may appear weak or unsteady because their rear limbs are weakened. The symptoms quickly progress to paralysis (inability to move) and the involvement spreads to the trunk, upper extremities, and head. Animals can die of respiratory arrest if the diaphragm becomes involved.
Identifying and detaching the ticks is the first step to preventing the further release of toxins and aggravating the symptoms.
Even if no ticks are found, an insecticidal bath may be given to your dog to kill any ticks that may be hidden in the folds of the skin. In some cases, this is the only treatment required and the dog will soon start showing signs of recovery. However, in cases with respiratory paralysis, oxygen supplementation or some other form of artificial ventilation will be required to keep the dog breathing.

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