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Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Tick paralysis is caused by the saliva of certain ticks.

Tick paralysis is a condition in which the saliva from certain types of adult female tick contains potent neurotoxins that enter a dog's body when the tick attaches and feeds.

Signs of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

About a week after a tick bite, the signs of tick paralysis begin and can include:

  • Wobbliness or weakness in rear legs
  • Rapid development of paralysis in the rear legs
  • Dog becomes unable to walk within a few days of onset
  • Decreased jaw tone

Ixodes holocyclus ticks in Australia cause a more severe form of tick paralysis. Dogs bitten by ticks with that toxin are more rapidly affected by paralysis, including respiratory signs.

Diagnosis of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

The signs of tick paralysis overlap with other conditions, such as botulism, coonhound paralysis, and other polyneuropathies (nervous system disorders).

A veterinarian may do blood work and x-rays to rule out other causes of the clinical signs. If there is a history of ticks on the dog or some are found during the physical exam, tick paralysis may be higher on the list of potential diagnoses.

Treatment of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

When a veterinarian suspects tick paralysis, a close, thorough exam will be done to look for and detach any ticks. Removing the continuous injection of saliva can lead to rapid improvement and resolution of signs in some cases. If the vet does not find a tick, an insecticidal dip may kill unseen ticks.

A dog with tick paralysis requires supportive care that may include being carried outside and supported for elimination, being frequently turned to avoid sores on the skin, and being kept in a quiet, cool area. Dogs that require oxygen therapy need hospitalization.

Prevention of tick paralysis in dogs involves diligent tick prevention. Check for ticks on your dog daily and remove them as they're found. Learn more: "How to Find Ticks on Your Dog" and "How to Remove Ticks."

Use a thorough tick prevention program developed together with your veterinarian based on your dog's lifestyle, life stage, and your geographic area.

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Watch Out for Ticks This Year

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How to Find Ticks on Your Dog

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Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

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