Can a Tick Bite Lead to Mobility Loss in Pets?

Although rare, tick paralysis is a serious condition that affects pets. Left untreated, this dangerous condition can lead to respiratory or heart failure.

Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Tick paralysis in dogs or tick-bite paralysis is caused by a toxin released through the saliva of a female tick that is injected into a dog’s blood stream. This toxin affects the dog’s nervous system, the spinal cord and muscles leading to rapid mobility loss and eventual paralysis. Typically, these signs begin to show within 3-5 days after the tick attaches.

The toxin can affect cats as well, however they are typically more resistant to the poison than dogs.

Signs and Symptoms

The beginning signs of paralysis from a tick bite typically start with the loss of coordination and weakness in a dog’s back legs. This may be noticeable climbing stairs or when trying to jump. Other early signs may include:

  • Difficulty breathing or change in breathing rate
  • Change in vocalization
  • Gagging or coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Wobbly legs
  • Dilated pupils

Tick paralysis typically begins in the rear and works its way forward as it progresses. The toxin spreads rapidly in pets and a pet can move quickly to total paralysis. During different stages your dog may be unable to move, stand, sit, or even lift its head. Other diseases can have similar symptoms, if your dog is showing any of these signs, they need to be seen by their Veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

Tick Paralysis Treatment

Bring Your Dog to the Vet

Your Vet may ask you questions about recent walks in wooded areas, if you’ve found ticks on your pet and what the tick looked like. Identifying the type of tick will help your Vet to diagnose your dog. They will then thoroughly inspect your dog, looking for hidden ticks. In most cases, detaching the tick and giving your dog an insecticidal bath is all that is necessary for treatment. Usually within 24 hours of tick removal you will see noticeable signs of improvement. Your dog’s recovery depends on the severity of their reaction, their overall health and if they had experienced tick born disease before. Most recoveries take between two and nine days and will likely need hospitalization.  

Keep Your Pet Cool

After visiting the Vet, it’s important to keep your dog cool. The neurotoxin is temperature sensitive. As physical activity can raise your dog’s body temp as well, keep them as calm as possible as they recover. Your pet should avoid stress and strenuous exercise for 2 to 3 weeks.

Tick Prevention

To protect your pet against ticks, speak with your Veterinarian about different products available. Even if medicated, pet’s hair can be kept short and routinely checked for ticks when they’ve been outside or in wooded areas.

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