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Spotting Tick Paralysis Disease

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July 27, 2020

Providing protection against parasites is an important aspect of animal health. Without this protection, pets can suffer from bites that cause itching, skin ailments, and disease.  As if that isn’t enough, the bite of one particular parasite is capable of not only making a dog sick, but can also cause paralysis and take away their life.

Ticks Effects on Dogs

Found in nearly all parts of the country, ticks are vectors for several diseases that are found in dogs and also known to affect humans. These diseases include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Babesiosis.

Unlike a flea, ticks are not built to run and jump. They move slowly, climbing up to the ends of grass and plants to wait for a passing host. When a warm-blooded animal walks by, the tick will crawl onto them and move around until they find a place to begin feeding.
A tick is capable of attaching itself to any part of its host, but the most common place to find a tick on a dog includes:

  • In or around the ears
  • Between the toes
  • In the armpits.

The tick becomes attached by inserting its mouthparts into the animal’s skin. Any disease is transferred through the tick’s saliva into the host’s body as the tick takes its blood meal.

Tick Paralysis

Ticks can also cause the tick paralysis disease. When advising clients on the use of parasite preventives, inform them of this potentially deadly disease by passing along the following important information:

  • Three types of ticks carry the toxin in their saliva that causes tick paralysis:
    • Lone star tick
    • Wood tick
    • Gulf Coast tick
  • When the toxin is released into the dog’s bloodstream an allergic hypersensitivity reaction occurs that affects the animal’s nervous system to cause:
    • Loss of voluntary movement caused by lower motor neuron paralysis
    • Disease of the nerves that connect the spinal cord and muscles
  • Symptoms:
    • Appear gradually, typically within a week following the time when the tick became attached, and may include:
      • Lethargy
      • Loss of appetite
      • Difficulty eating
      • Labored or rapid breathing
      • Change in voice
      • Vomiting
      • High blood pressure
      • Fast heart rate
      • Fast heart rhythm
      • Excessive pupil dilatation
      • Loss of coordination, appears wobbly or not able to get up
      • Weakness in the hind limbs
      • Loss of muscle tone
      • Poor to complete loss of reflexes
      • Partial to complete loss of muscle movement
      • Enlarged esophagus
      • Respiratory muscle paralysis
      • Asphyxia
    • Once symptoms appear, the animal will grow progressively weaker over a 48 to 72 hour period
    • Death may occur from respiratory arrest
  • Diagnosis of the disease may require:
    • Thorough history of the animal’s health, including the onset of symptoms
    • Complete physical examination, which includes checking for the presence of ticks or for recent evidence of ticks
    • Removal of any ticks
    • Requests for laboratory tests and radiographs may be necessary depending upon the symptoms and the severity of the disease:
      • Complete blood count
      • Biochemistry profile
      • Urinalysis
      • Blood gases
      • Chest x-ray
    • The most important step of the diagnosis is to find the tick, as most dogs show a marked improvement once the tick is removed.
  • Prevention:
    • Always examine the dog after spending time outdoors, especially after hiking or when walking in wooded or high grassy areas
    • Remove and dispose of any ticks immediately
    • Use preventives on dogs that have been developed to repel or kill ticks
    • Keep tall grass, weeds, brush cut down to prevent tick environment
    • Treat outdoor environment with an insecticide safe for animals

Most tick transmitted diseases do not occur until the tick has been attached for several hours. The key to preventing tick paralysis disease is to be observant and to thoroughly examine a dog whenever it has been outside where ticks are prevalent!

Help protect dogs from ticks by contacting your Covetrus representative at 855.724.3461 for more suggestions on parasite preventives!

Sources:

http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/infectious-parasitic/c_dg_tick_paralysis

http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/bites-and-stings/tick-paralysis#
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