Skip to main content

Tick Paralysis Treatment

At Pittwater Animal Hospital we have treated thousands of sick dogs and cats affected by tick paralysis over the years. We are strong advocates for tick prevention to avoid your pets becoming poisoned but sometimes it just happens. 

Dogs and cats will usually need treatment even with the very mildest of signs. The earlier this treatment is started, the greater the success of treatment.

Mild Tick Paralysis

These animals might just be not quite themselves. Signs include

  • Not wanting to eat
  • Less active
  • Change in voice
  • Unable to urinate
  • Slight weakness when walking

Treatment: If a tick is the cause of these signs it is best to treat, because tick poisoning signs can get worse for 48 hours after the tick is removed.

Our recommendation is to admit your pet into hospital and have

  • Sedation for treatment and clipping
  • Intravenous fluid therapy
  • Tick antiserum administration
  • Full body clip
  • Tick prevention applied
  • Bladder support
  • Eye care. (Animals with ticks often have dry eyes which develop ulcers)

Animals that are treated quickly with mild signs are often home and back to normal within one to two days. 

Moderate Tick Paralysis

These animals are very obviously affected and are at risk of severe, life threatening tick paralysis.

The signs of this stage include

  • Weakness and wobbliness of legs, with difficulty rising
  • Increased effort with breathing
  • Cats may have a mild grunt as they breath out
  • Dogs may develop a noisier breathing

Treatment: These animals are likely to die without treatment and the sooner it is started the better the outcome is likely to be.

Our recommendation is to admit your pet into hospital and have

  • Sedation for treatment and clipping
  • Intravenous fluid therapy
  • Tick antiserum administration
  • Full body clip
  • Tick prevention applied
  • Bladder support
  • Eye care. (Animals with ticks often have dry eyes which develop ulcers)
  • Medication to decrease retching and vomiting
  • Perhaps ongoing sedation to control anxious and difficult breathing episodes
  • Survey xrays to detect aspiration pneumonia may be needed
  • Oxygen therapy may be required to avoid exhausted breathing

Animals that are treated quickly with moderate signs are often home and back to normal within two to four days. Some animals take longer to convalesce, especially if they are older or over weight. 

Severe Tick Paralysis

These animals have life threatening tick paralysis and may die despite treatment.

The signs of this stage include

  • Usually unable to stand
  • Very obvious effort with each breath. The paralysis will go on for at least three days so this breathing effort can be exhausting.  
  • Cats may have an exaggerated ticky grunt
  • Dogs may be retching and gagging. Often these animals will suddenly regurgitate froth into the back of their mouths. Because they are paralysed they can not clear the throat and it is sucked down into the lungs causing pneumonia. This acute pneumonia puts the animal in critical danger of death.

Treatment: These animals are likely to die without intensive care

Our recommendation is to admit your pet into hospital and have

  • General anaesthesia for treatment and clipping
  • 24 hour intensive care to monitor progress and to suction secretions
  • Ongoing sedation to control anxious, difficult breathing episodes
  • Oxygen therapy to assist with breathing. (Even with oxygen these animals sometimes do not have the ability to breath adequately.)
  • Intravenous fluid therapy
  • Tick antiserum administration
  • Medication to decrease retching and vomiting
  • Medication to treat possible pneumonia
  • Survey xrays to detect aspiration pneumonia
  • Full body clip
  • Blood tests performed to assess progress and possible further complications
  • Tick prevention applied
  • Bladder support
  • Eye care. (Animals with ticks often have dry eyes which develop ulcers)

These animals are best cared for at our emergency service where there is 24 hour care and access to more advanced life support options. NEVS has highly experienced staff available, even in the middle of the night.

End Stage Tick Paralysis

These animals can not survive without life support. This is an extremely costly treatment option which requires up-front payment. To start ventilation any accrued costs must be paid in full plus a $5000 deposit. Every 48 hours another $5000 will need to be paid. Estimated cost until recovery may be $10-20000.

The animals body will recover from the poisoning 3-4 days after all ticks are removed but these animals will not live that long or have complications that are now life threatening.

To try to save their lives they can be placed on life support or ventilation up at NEVS our emergency service.

The animal is kept anaesthetised and a ventilator controls their breathing.  As well as ventilation, intravenous fluids are carefully administered, blood tests performed, medications given, hourly physio and eye care, bladder control, regular chest xrays and constant monitoring. NEVS looks after these patients on a fixed daily rate and has remarkable success rates for these cases. 

Animals may require ventilation for anything from 2 days to 10 days. When off the ventilator they are in intensive care for a number of days before being  well enough to go home. Several of our Pittwater patients have been saved by ventilation at NEVS and have lived very happy, long lives. The experience is however very emotionally and financially draining.

Intensive early treatment and monitoring can often avoid your pet getting end stage tick paralysis.

Euthanasia

Tick treatment is costly and owners need to be aware of the financial investment in treating their pet with tick poisoning. Complications with paralysed animals can double and triple the costs. At Pittwater Animal Hospital we try to keep you as informed as possible of the cost involved. This is also true of NEVS. Deposits for treatment are usually needed.

If you have a paralysed animal and are unable to afford this treatment, (finance companies are available), the kindest thing may be to euthanase your pet. Dying from tick paralysis is an awful death.

As always we are here to advise you and do what is right for you and your pet.