GLEN ROSE -Ticks are carriers of various diseases that affect animals, but many are unaware that the parasite can also cause paralysis.
Dr. Gary Crabtree, of Squaw Veterinary Clinic, explained how tick paralysis is caused by a neurotoxin that is released through the saliva of the insect during feeding. The toxins are released into the bloodstream, attack a dog’s nervous system and can cause lower-motor-neuron paralysis. When a dog is afflicted with lower neuron paralysis, the animal will have a loss of voluntary movement and its muscles will stay in a state of relaxation.
In the U.S., dogs are more prone to tick paralysis than cats.
Tick paralysis is usually more prevalent in the summer. However, in climates where temperatures are consistently warm, like Texas, ticks may be present throughout the year.
According to Dr. Crabtree, there isn’t one particular species of tick that can cause the paralysis. However, it appears female ticks are the carriers of the toxin. If your dog has an infestation of ticks it won’t necessarily lead to tick paralysis.
Dr. Crabtree explained that the ticks which cause the paralysis are normally found around the neck of the dog. He also noted that the signs of paralysis will usually appear about a week after a tick has attached to the dog.
A case of tick paralysis can go through three different stages.
Symptoms of the first stage include vocal changes, weakness in the hind limbs and vomiting. In the second stage your dog may experience partial loss of muscle movement and poor reflexes, as well as difficulty with breathing, chewing and swallowing. If your dog displays a complete loss of muscle movement it is a sign that the disease has advanced.
Tick paralysis is diagnosed with the onset of paralysis and treatment is as simple as identifying and removing the ticks.
Dr. Crabtree explained that the paralysis should subside and your dog will recover once the tick is removed. Only in severe cases will a dog have to be hospitalized for care and daily neurological assessment. If ticks are not removed, death may occur from respiratory distress.
During the recovery period it is recommended to keep your dog in a quiet, cool environment. Since the neurotoxin is temperature sensitive, physical activity should be avoided.
To avoid tick paralysis, you should check your dog regularly for ticks - especially if they frequent wooded areas or high grass. If you have difficulty locating the ticks dog owners are advised to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian for a full assessment.
The Reporter will provide early information on fleas and flea prevention in next week's edition.