The paralysis tick toxin causes paralysis of the muscles in the body, including the muscles involved in swallowing, bladder control, breathing and the heart.

What possible complications might my pet have after having tick paralysis?

  • Pneumonia
  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary oedema (fluid on the chest)
  • Incontinence
  • Death

What would happen if I did not get my pet treated?

Without treatment, most cases will continue to deteriorate and may cause death. Some animals will survive, but their chances are better, the costs lower and your animal suffers less if treatment is sought early.

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What about immunity to ticks?

Although some animals might have immunity to the paralysis ticks. If your animal is showing any symptoms then they are not immune and will most likely require treatment to make a complete and speedy recovery. Giving tick antitoxin treatment does not interfere with immunity your animal may develop, however, it does not give any long-term protection either.

Why can’t you just give the tick antitoxin?

  • In some mild cases we can just treat with tick antitoxin, however, most cases have some degree of cardio-respiratory involvement (i.e. their heart & breathing is affected), so other medications are required to improve the chances of a full & speedy recovery.
  • As the antitoxin doesn’t work immediately, nursing care has to be given until it has a chance to start to neutralise the toxin. Often the animals will continue to get worse, even after the antitoxin is given before it makes them better.
  • Some animals can react to the antitoxin so by medicating them with certain drugs before giving them the serum, we can reduce the likelihood of this occurring.

What are all the other medications that you give?

  • Anamav/Pamlin/Pentobarb (sedatives); it is very frightening for animals to get tick paralysis. They do not understand why they cannot move their body so they stress. This increases their blood pressure and breathing rate, quickly exhausting the heart and breathing muscles. Sedatives are used to reduce their blood pressure and keep them calm and quiet.
  • Frusemide (diuretic); as the cardiovascular system becomes affected, the animals accumulate fluid on the chest, in some cases drowning in their own bodily fluids. Diuretics shift the fluid from the chest and out of the body
  • Noroclav/Amoxiclav/Penicillin (antibiotics); if the muscles controlling swallowing are affected and the animal is vomiting, there is a risk that they could accidentally breathe water/food/vomit into their lungs. This would then cause pneumonia to occur. Antibiotics are given to reduce the risk of chest infection
  • Cerenia/Metoclopramide/Zantac (gut protectants/anti-nausea); some animals display vomiting as a symptom of tick paralysis. These medications settle the stomach
  • Morphine/Methone/Atropine (heart medication); in severe cases of tick paralysis, the heart can beat erratically. These medications help to keep the heart rate stable
  • Intravenous fluids/Gelofusine; as no food or water is given until the animals are recovering, intravenous fluids help to keep the animals hydrated. Gelofusine is a type of intravenous fluid that helps to draw water off the chest and back into the circulation.

Why does it cost so much to treat tick paralysis?

  • Many medications are used to treat tick paralysis and sometimes need to be injected up to 3-4 times a day
  • Tick antiserum is expensive (up to $13 per ml depending on type). For example, the serum required for a 20kg dog costs approximately $145
  • An average patient needs its bedding changed 3-4 times a day, turning every hour or two and close monitoring by trained veterinary nurses. They are also searched for ticks twice a day while in hospital, as well as having their drip-lines checked and flushed regularly. The price of hospital and nursing care reflects the time that the vet nurse must spend with your pet each day of their recovery
  • Several pieces of expensive equipment are also used to monitor and treat tick paralysis cases. Our hospital fees need to be able to cover the usage, repairs and maintenance for this life-saving equipment

What can I do in future to avoid my pet getting paralysis ticks?

Use tick prevention year-round, particularly during peak tick time, i.e. from late August to January. During this period you should check your animals daily for ticks and signs of paralysis.

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