Tick paralysis is caused by the injection of tick toxin into the bloodstream of the host after the female tick has become attached to its skin. The female tick may occur on man, dog, cat, and other domestic animals, e.g., goats and the bandicoot appears to be its most important natural host.
Each female lays 2,000-3,000 eggs in a season which hatch into larvae; these later molt and develop into nymphs. The nymphs become attached to the skin of animals they come in contact with and suck blood from their hosts as well as inject tick toxin, from their salivary glands, into the host’s bloodstream.
The young female ticks are fully engorged in about 5-6 days, then they drop off and commence to lay eggs and the life-cycle repeats itself.
Paralysis occurs mainly on the 4th and 5th day after attachment and is caused mainly by adult females, one of which may suffice, but in rare cases also by a large number of nymphae.
These may be any of the following, but not necessarily all:
- Paralysis beginning as slight incoordination of the hind legs and spreading towards the head, ending in paralysis of all four limbs
- Very slow labored respiration
- Excessive salivation and vomiting particularly eating
- Changes in the voice due to laryngeal paralysis
- Pneumonia due to aspiration of matter into the lung as pharyngeal paralysis may develop
- While showing all the above symptoms the dog still remains bright and alert showing widely dilated pupils
- Initially, there may be a fever but the temperature soon drops to subnormal
- Death finally ensues due to paralysis of the muscles of respiration and the cause of death may be said to be due to asphyxia.
What to do if my dog has engorged paralysis ticks
As in many other diseases, prevention is better than cure, but once an animal suffers from any of the foregoing symptoms the only rational course is to acquaint a qualified veterinary surgeon of the facts and be guided by his advice.
- Find and remove the tick
- Administer anti-tick serum prepared from dogs which have become immune through continuous exposure to ticks
- Administer drugs to stop the vomiting and excess salivation
- If necessary place the animal in an oxygen tent or apply artificial respiration to prevent death from asphyxia
- Feed the animal with intravenous glucose saline while it is unable to swallow any food.
Fortunately, 70-90 percent of animals affected in this way, do recover, after this treatment, but a grossly mistaken idea is that once an animal has been affected with tick paralysis he becomes immune from further attack. The immunity, following the paralysis, is only temporary, and it wanes after about three weeks.
Perhaps, the most important feature of tick paralysis is its prevention and this in most cases can be achieved by:
- Removal of all bushes and shrubs likely to harbor the ticks
- The destruction of the bandicoot, perhaps the most important, or susceptible host for the tick
- Manual search for the tick, every 48 hours, and every 24 hours in the long-coated breeds is not excessive
- Regular bathing of the animal, say weekly, in some most effective insecticide solution, many of which are on the market, but it must be remembered that 100 percent immunity cannot be attained by the use of any of these insecticides, as the parts of the animal’s body on which it cannot be used with safety, e.g., the eyelids and other bare parts, are most susceptible to the ravage of the tick.