Harry’s tangle with a tick

Harry, a 1 year old Border collie dog went to Orbost with this family for a camping trip. Unfortunately, he got more than he bargained for. Upon their return home, Harry's owners noticed something was wrong and he was rushed to Pascoe Vale Veterinary Hospital with signs of weakness in his back legs.

Our veterinarian suspected a link between Harry's camping trip and the sudden onset of weakness in his back legs. His front legs were normal and other than the weakness he checked out fine. A tick was found on his face and was removed. Removal of the guilty paralysis tick is an important step in the treatment process.

Paralysis ticks are specific type of tick called lxodes holocyclus. They live along the eastern coastal area of Australia, usually in the warmer area. As most ticks look almost the same, identification of the paralysis tick can be difficult. If in doubt, it is always wise to check with your veterinarian.

Harry was admitted to the hospital under critical care supervision, and was placed on intravenous fluids. He had a blood test performed and was also given tick antiserum, the antidote to the paralysis tick venom. Tick antiserum must be administered very carefully, along with specific drugs to prevent allergic reaction. He was also given a sedative to keep him calm.

Harry's entire body was also shaved, so that another tick search could be be performed. It is vital that every paralysis tick is removed as soon as possible, but finding ticks amongst long hair can be very difficult.

After this Harry stayed overnight at the emergency centre before being returned to us, bright, happy and walking again! He had begun to eat properly and his ability to swallow returned. He is now doing very well and his family, both human and furry, are very happy to have him home again!

Harry was lucky to escape with nothing more than a bad haircut as many dogs are not so lucky. Paralysis tick venom can have severe effects on an animal's ability to breathe, swallow, and walk. It can also affect the heart, and the muscles within the eye. In severe cases, it can result in heart failure, pneumonia and death.

This is why it is so important to be vigilant about protecting your pets from paralysis ticks, if you are going to be travelling to a tick infested area. There are preventative medications that should be started before going on a trip to one of these area, in the form of spot-on liquids that are easily applied to the skin at the back of the neck. Once on your trip it is important to take a little time out of each day to perform a thorough tick search. If you are in a tick affected area and notice any signs of weakness or paralysis in your dog, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Please discuss paralysis tick prevention with your veterinarian before going a trip to a tick infested area. Your veterinarian will be only too happy to advise you on the best possible prevention.