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Canine Health Information

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Tick Paralysis

Issue Description
A rare, progressive, reversible disorder caused by several species of ticks that release a neurotoxin that causes weakness, incoordination, and paralysis. The tick must feed on the host for several days before the symptoms appear, and removal of the tick leads to rapid recovery.

It is caused by tick bites, especially near the neck or shoulders.

The first sign in the dog is incordination and weakness as he becomes unable to move his hind legs. The paralysis slowly moves upward, involving the front quarters. The dog will usually have a normal temperature and show few signs of illness except he will be unable to function. Difficulty in chewing and swallowing follow, and in a heavy infestation, the paralysis can involve the dog's respiratory centers in the brain, causing difficulty in breathing and death in only a few hours. The incubation period is 5-7 days and paralysis can peak within a few hours, but timely removal of any ticks bring about a rapid recovery.

No specific tests are available to diagnose canine tick paralysis. It is diagnosed based on acute sudden onset of progressive hind limb paresis and paralysis in a tick-infested area. The offending tick may not be present by the time clinical signs begin. Blood and chemistry values are usually within the normal range.

Signs of improvement are seen within 24 hours following removal of ticks. The presence of additional ticks or other causes of paralysis must be considered if the animal does not recover following tick removal. The prognosis in most cases is good.

Horse Herd