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Dog Tick Borne Paralysis

By Dr. Andrew Jones

Disturbing Phone Call

My Dad phoned me yesterday with some unsettling news
about his 10 year old Bearded Collie- Jessie.

Jessie’s back legs were ‘not working right’

He was wobbling from side to side, and his
paws were folding under themselves..

A sudden onset of paralysis.

I had my Dad to a basic exam of Jessie,
and came to the conclusion that it was
a sudden onset of paralysis, and it was
NON painful..

And then guess what?

Well the differentials for a sudden onset of non painful
paralysis are pretty small.

The most common one?

Tick Borne Paralysis..

It is caused by a neurotoxin produced in the tick’s salivary gland. After prolonged attachment, the engorged tick transmits the toxin to your dog or cat.

The toxin causes symptoms within 2-7 days, beginning with weakness in both legs that progresses to paralysis. The paralysis ascends to trunk, arms, and head within hours and may lead to respiratory failure and death. The disease can present as acute ataxia without muscle weakness.

Tick paralysis is believed to be due to toxins found in the tick’s saliva that enter the bloodstream while the tick is feeding. The two ticks most commonly associated with North American tick paralysis are the Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni) and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis);

Most North American cases of tick paralysis occur from April to June, when adult Dermacentor ticks emerge from hibernation and actively seek hosts.

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.

Removal of the embedded tick usually results in resolution of symptoms within several hours to days. If the tick is not removed, the toxin can be fatal, with reported mortality rates of 10–12 percent, usually due to respiratory paralysis.

So WHAT happened?

I told my Dad and brother to look for a Tick by Jessie’s ear ( they like to hide behind ears)

And sure enough they found an engorged female tick.

And now Jessie is back to his normal gopher/sheep/cow chasing self-

Everyone is now relieved (minus the gophers/sheep/cows)

Now if you are looking for more of these quick and easy At Home Solutions to
your dogs and cat’s health problems, I advise my NEW Digital Book:

Veterinary Secrets Revealed

…Until next time

Dr Andrew J


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Topics: Cat Health, Dog Health, Pet health | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Dog Tick Borne Paralysis”

  1. Avatar Jean McKinney Says:
    May 12th, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Hi Dr. Jones,

    So glad to hear Jesse is back to his old self.

    What method do you recommend for removing a tick?



  2. Avatar Judith Says:
    May 12th, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Re: Tick paralysis
    What scares me is that I have two big black Newfie dogs and don’t have a clue how I would ever see a tick in their thick black coats. Any suggestions?

  3. Avatar Jan Ault Says:
    May 12th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Hi! Doc!!
    When I read the first few lines-my heart sank! So glad to see you dad has his best friend back to share love!
    I’m on my way out to my Co-host’s dog’s funeral. Radar a beautiful German Shepard 3 years young,died on Mommy’s Day-went through the autopsy yesterday,my birthday,and services today.
    I will email more about Radar’s death. My heart is real heavy now-will take some time to heal.

  4. Avatar Diane Milinowski Says:
    May 12th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    amazing. The same thing happened to my dog, Chaka (a doberman pincher) back in 1988.

  5. Avatar Marcia Harrison Says:
    May 12th, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Hi to Judith regarding her Newfies..I’m a groomer, and we find many ticks as we are drying the dogs. My suggestion is to get a regular hair dryer, keep it on warm/cool setting and blow the hair away down to the skin. This will help you find the ticks.

  6. Avatar Marcia Harrison Says:
    May 12th, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Did Jessie need any medication for the tick bite? I am a groomer and over the past two years, we have had many clients fall ill and die from exposure to tick bites. I feel it’s a silent epidemic in the northeast (united states). I feel the state’s agriculture department should start monitoring the fatalities of dogs due to tick borne diseases. The only problem is that may vets won’t recognize these facts!

  7. Avatar Kyle Says:
    May 14th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks for the great info.

    I have a question about the tick problem that the article didn’t address.

    Can the ticks also transmit the paralysis to humans and cats or does this only affect dogs ?

  8. Avatar danielle Says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 5:50 am

    happy to hear jessie is doing good i whould be horified if any thing happened to my dog she is not onely my dog she is my best frend she goes every ware with me

  9. Avatar danielle Says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 5:51 am

    happy to hear jessie is doing good i whould be horified if any thing happened to my dog she is not onely my dog she is my best frend she goes every ware with me how did you get the tick off can it get cats or people

  10. Avatar TorontoVet Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Really interesting and useful info. It’s something we don’t see much of (I’ve never seen a case of it) here in Toronto. Thanks very much for sharing and I’m really glad to hear your parents’ dog has recovered.

    Your fellow Canadian vet,


  11. Avatar Joseli Says:
    June 3rd, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    this happened to my sister’s wolf hybred, but he never did recover and had to be put to sleep.

  12. Avatar MCPAWS REgional Animal Shelter Says:
    June 6th, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    We just had a dog brought in to our shelter today with this condition. It was abandoned, and found by a good samaritan who had brought him to the vet to be euthanized. He was almost completely paralyzed, but the vet found the tick and removed it. Grady is now recovering comfortably at our shelter, and will hopefully find a new home with owners who will think before dumping their dog in the woods to die.

  13. Avatar Juan343 Says:
    June 11th, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Doc. I believe that my doggy just got that!!! im seraching online in the vets office… yet it relates a similar event to the one that happened in my house… my doggy gave a loud howl then fell on the ground unstable and his head twisted about 170 degrees… i just hope he can make it out..

    miami florida

  14. Avatar Troy Says:
    July 3rd, 2009 at 1:23 am

    I find this information quite relevant. This year the ticks in the Saskatoon, SK, area have been out of control. My dogs are getting jumped by ticks continuously. In the past month I have probably pulled dozens off of each. In a recent 3 day span I counted over 40 ticks that I pulled off of my dogs and my family. We do spend a lot of time outdoors. In a previous 2 day span I pulled 7 ticks off the dogs in various stages of engorgement and put them in a jar. My daughter’s teacher was very interested in seeing them for educational purposes. Some of the ticks I pulled off the dogs have been very engorged. It is hard to think that I would miss these guys considering I am always checking! This is happening when they are in my back yard or out in trails. And I live within the city! I have never seen it like this. Now, to the point, my 10 year old Sheppard seems to be OK, but I have noticed her back legs are getting a little unsteady. I thought it was simply due to her advancing age. However, based on the news I have just read in this web site I will now seek a vet’s advice.

  15. Avatar PragmaticMom Says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I just heard that the Lyme Disease vaccine for dogs is not very effective AND that ticks are now resistant to FrontLine. Yikes, I guess I better step up the tick patrol!

    I am really paranoid about Lyme Disease and had my doctor check for ticks during my annual skin check. She also wrote a great post called Lyme Aid that I thought was extremely informative (though disheartening)


Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM