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What every pet owner should know about Tick Paralysis

Shown is a female tick that has fed for eight days and one that has not
Shown is a female tick that has fed for eight days and one that has not

Tick Paralysis is caused by a toxin that transmits from tick saliva, into the blood stream of the host, as the tick is attached, feeds, and become engorged.

Ticks most commonly known to be associated with this illness are the North American tick, Rocky Mountain Wood tick, and American Dog tick. The ailment is most prominent in North America from April to June when adult ticks emerge from hibernation and seek out their hosts.

Symptoms are usually visible within 2-7 days after contracted and begin with weakness in the hind legs that will progress into paralysis. Within hours, paralysis will extend to the torso and head of the host. This paralysis can lead to respiratory failure and death. Other symptoms may include: vomiting, unsteadiness, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, weakness, partial loss of muscle movements, poor reflexes, difficulty eating, disorder of voice, excessive drooling, and pupil dilation.

While most tick paralysis cases are found in animals, human cases have been documented as well.

Tick paralysis occurs when an egg-filled female tick produces a neurotoxin and transmits it to the host during feeding. The greatest amount of toxin is thought to be produced between the fifth and seventh day of attachment and it’s during this time the animal will begin to show symptoms.

Unlike Lyme disease, that produces illness long after the tick has been removed, tick paralysis only continues while the tick is attached to its host. Removal of the embedded tick will usually show resolved symptoms within several hours to a few days. Failure to remove the tick is usually fatal due to the onset of respiratory failure.

There is no known vaccine for any tick borne illnesses. The best prevention is to keep you pets tick free by using reputable repellants made specifically for animals. Always use well known, proven treatments or you could end up with a whole other set of issues and symptoms. Take care to remove any ticks that you may find on your pets.

If your pet shows symptoms of tick paralysis, seek immediate veterinary care for evaluation and treatment.

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