Tick paralysis is a reaction occurring in dogs from tick bites. The condition occurs from a potent toxin in the saliva of certain female tick species found in the Rocky Mountains. As the tick feeds on blood from its host, it transfuses the toxin, inhibiting the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that enhances communication between body muscles. The ticks carrying the toxin need to be attached to the body for about four days and the symptoms begin to appear a week after attachment.
Tick paralysis is common between April and June in North America as its breeding time for the ticks. Though tick paralysis may occur from several bites, a single bite from a tick with the toxin is enough for your dog to contract the disease. Since the disease affects body muscles, the first symptom will be a change in the sound when the dog barks. Dogs also tend to throw up and decline to feed due to the weakening of throat and esophagus muscles. As the toxin level in the bloodstream rise, it attacks the nervous system weakening the nerves connecting the muscles to the spinal cord. There is the loss of voluntary body movement as the back legs become weak, wobbly and flaccid. If left untreated, tick paralysis spreads from the hind limbs to the forelimbs and eventually to the respiratory system. Death may occur within a few hours when the respiratory system is affected.
If you realize that your dog has any of the symptoms of tick paralysis, it is important to visit the veterinary immediately. The vet conducts a complete biochemistry test on your dog to discern the symptoms. Usually, removing the ticks could be the only treatment your dog requires. However, in the event of respiratory problems, oxygen supplementation is administered to keep the dog breathing until the toxins are eliminated. Supportive care should be provided for severe cases until full recovery.
Regular checks on your dog are the only effective way of keeping tick paralysis away. You should check the areas of our pet’s body where ticks tend to hide such as the ear flaps, tail, and the toes underside. If you find ticks, remove them and use tick deterrents to protect your dog from further attacks. Moreover, focus on boosting your dog’s immunologic health. Create a strong immune system through a balanced diet, constant exercise, minimal chemical exposure and regular vet visits.