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Tick Paralysis in dogs

Posted on 21 October, 2017 at 6:10 Comments comments (0)

There have been a couple of reported cases of Paralysis Ticks being found in the Blue Mountains recently so we thought we'd shed some light on these potentially lethal buggers!

They are dangerous because after attaching they feed on the host’s blood, injecting small amounts of saliva into the dog in the process. Their saliva contains a toxin that causes the connection between the nerves and the muscles throughout the body in the dog to become disrupted which causes weakness and ultimately paralysis.


This is not just limited to the muscles involved in standing and walking but also the muscles inside such as those involved in breathing and swallowing, potentially causing serious compromise to breathing and pneumonia.

Here's what they look like:

They are usually found towards the front part of a dog's body, so a thorough tick search should be done daily. Do this by working your fingers through your dog’s coat down to the skin and then systematically massage your fingers over the entire coat. Attached ticks are firmly attached and feel like a hard smooth round irregularity on the surface of the skin. Make sure you check the edge of the lips, in skin folds, between the toes, around the bum and in the ears. Clipping your dog’s coat short makes performing tick searches much easier.


If you think that you have found a tick, part the fur to have a closer look at it. Nipples, warts and other bumps on the skin are often mistaken for ticks and you should not attempt to remove them. Sometimes the tick has already become detached by the time that you are performing a search in which case you may only find a crater where a tick has been attached. Gross hey?!

As a very rough general rule, for a tick to cause a dog a problem it either has to be quite large (greater than 4mm long) or be attached for at least 4 days. Common symptoms include:




•Vomiting or retching

•Change of bark

•Difficulty breathing


If ticks are attached near the eyes they can make the eyelids paralysed and stop blinking which can cause eyes to dry out and become damaged. Because the toxin also causes weakness and dilation to the food pipe, affected dogs may retch and regurgitate their food, water or just froth fluid. One serious complication of this is aspiration of fluid or food into the lungs which causes pneumonia.


Affected dogs also may have difficulty swallowing which can cause fluid to build up in the mouth and throat which can make them choke. If the paralysis becomes too advanced and the muscles involved with breathing become too weak, the dog may not be able to breath sufficiently or at all.


Tick paralysis is progressive and potentially fatal and mechanical ventilation in a veterinary clinic may be required.

If you have found a tick, you should use a tick remover to detach it from the skin. You should not apply tick treatments, alcohol, mineral oil or petroleum jelly to the tick and you should also not try to burn it. Even once a paralysis tick has been removed it is possible for a dog that was previously unaffected to start to show signs of tick paralysis. Also dogs that are showing signs of paralysis can deteriorate further even after the tick has been removed.


If your pet is showing any signs of tick paralysis, you should take him/her to a veterinarian for treatment promptly.


If you suspect that your dog has tick paralysis you can reduce the risk of complications by withholding food and water before you can see a veterinarian. This is especially important if the dog is regurgitating.

We hope this information is helpful, credit goes to SASH for the article.