Summer means the beginning of tick season, but this year the little critters have arrived early. They nearly claimed the lives of two dogs from Oregon. Tucker is a 4 year-old Yorkie whose owner noticed he couldn’t jump up the steps to their home. Within a few hours his back legs stopped working and soon he was paralyzed. Ollie is 10 year-old Shetland sheepdog who had just returned from a trip with his family when he went from acting lethargic to complete paralysis. Both dogs were lucky because the ticks hiding under their skin were found in the nick of time.
Tick paralysis is rare, but with two dogs affected by the toxin this early in the season, you should know how to protect your pet.
Facts about Ticks
Ticks are parasites that attach themselves to an animal (or human) and feed on the blood of their host. They like warm temperatures, the motion animals make when they move and the carbon dioxide they exhale. So basically ticks love just about everything a small animal or rodent has to offer.
While ticks are plentiful in many parts of the USA, the ones that transmit the type of toxin that can cause paralysis and death are fairly uncommon. Only certain species of female ticks can do that. These ticks attach to the skin of a dog and secrete the toxin through their saliva. The poison is so potent it causes deadly symptoms to the nervous system in 6 – 9 days.
Kim Rose, who is pet mom to Tucker, said she checks her dog for ticks on a regular basis. She had even given him a bath the week before his paralysis began, but somehow she missed finding the tiny parasite. Tucker’s veterinarian located the critter behind the dog’s ear and safely removed it. Soon the little dog was back to feeling like himself.
Al and Joelle Meteney brought Ollie to their veterinarian when he became lethargic. Within hours the dog was paralyzed, unable to eat and incontinent. Ollie and their vet didn’t think the dog had a tick because he was wearing a tick collar to protect him. The family didn’t want their dog to suffer so they made the difficult decision to have him euthanized. As the veterinarian was rubbing the dog to soothe him, she felt the tiny lump of a tick attached to his ear.
Within 10 hours of removing the parasite, Ollie was walking and three days later he was a healthy dog again.
Symptoms of a Tick Paralysis Bite You Should Know:
- High blood pressure
- Fast heart rate
- Weakness, especially in the rear limbs
- Complete Paralysis
- Difficulty eating
- Difficulty barking
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive drooling
How to Prevent a Tick Bite
In addition to Tick Paralysis, the parasite causes Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever so it is important to maintain a good prevention program.
The best treatment to stop the parasite’s bite is to make use of tick control collars and a monthly topical medication recommended by your veterinarian. This is true even though the tick on Ollie was able to survive while he was wearing a collar.
There are also topical sprays that can be used on a monthly basis. Cats seem to prefer this form of medication. Make sure the brand you purchase is recommended by your veterinarian.
For pets that need additional treatment, there are medicated dips that are applied by professionals and medicated flea and tick shampoos that pet parents can use on their dog or cat. These are especially beneficial if you have already discovered a tick on your pet.
Another method of keeping your pet tick free is with regular exams of your dog’s skin and fur. Ticks are found by running your hands over your dog’s entire body, including their head, ears, neck and feet. Be sure to massage the fur back and forth feeling for little bumps. A young tick could be about half the size of your fingernail while a mature female could feel much larger.
How to Safely Remove a Tick
If you find a tick on your pet it needs to be removed safely and quickly. Veterinarians recommend the use of rubbing alcohol, a pair of tweezers and gloves for your hands. The process includes dabbing a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the tick and then use the tweezers to take hold of it as close to the dog’s skin as possible.
Pull the tick out in a slow and steady motion. Try not to leave the head in the dog’s skin. Remember Do Not squeeze the tick because it could inject more bacteria into your dog. It is important to wear gloves throughout the procedure so you do not infect yourself.
Never Use These Materials:
There are many myths about removing a tick so it is important to know which materials you should never use.
Do Not Use:
- Hot matches
- Petroleum jelly
- Nail polish
- Rubbing alcohol alone without the tweezers
Once you have removed the tick from your pet keep a watchful eye on your dog or cat. The site is prone to inflammation and infection. An over-the-counter antibiotic ointment can gently rubbed onto the site as a prevention.
The official start of tick season will soon be here. I hope these tips help keep your dogs and cats safe.
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