By Dr. Dan Meakin
Tick Paralysis is caused by over 40 species of ticks worldwide (five in North America, including the deer tick) and can occur in almost any region where ticks are found. It has killed thousands of animals.
Tick paralysis occurs when an engorged and gravid (egg-laden) female tick produces a neurotoxin in its salivary glands and transmits it to its host during feeding.
Unlike Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis, which are caused by the systemic proliferation and expansion of parasites in their hosts long after the offending tick is gone, tick paralysis is chemically induced by the tick and can therefore continue only in its presence.
Once the tick is removed, symptoms usually diminish rapidly. However, in some cases, profound paralysis can develop and even become fatal before anyone becomes aware of a tick’s presence.
Symptoms of tick paralysis generally begin from five to seven days after a tick becomes attached, beginning with fatigue, numbness of the legs and muscle pains.
Paralysis rapidly develops from the lower to the upper extremities and, if the tick is not removed, is followed by tongue and facial paralysis. The most severe complications may include convulsions, respiratory failure and, in up to 12 percent of untreated cases, death.
Treatment is simply removing the feeding tick(s). It is important to remove all the mouthparts, since they contain the salivary glands which may continue to infect the patient even after the body of the tick has been removed.
To remove an imbedded tick, grasp it gently with tweezers right where it contacts the skin and pull slowly and steadily outward. Once the tick is removed intact, the patient should show rapid improvement over the next several days.
Prevention & Control
Symptoms of tick paralysis generally begin from five to seven days after a tick becomes attached. Therefore, the best prevention is to comb through your pet’s hair coat daily and remove any ticks. There are products that are topical solutions you apply monthly to you pet to help prevent the tick from attaching in the first place. Call our office to learn more about this and other tick borne diseases and to assure that you are removing ticks completely.
Dr. Dan Meakin is the owner of All Creatures Animal Hospital, 1894 Ohio Pike in Amelia. Call (513) 797-PETS.