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Tick Paralysis

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Treatment

The treatment in tick paralysis is basically to remove the ticks thoroughly. Frequently, multiple ticks are attached to an animal. For the North American tick species mentioned under epidemiology, removal of all ticks usually results in improvement within 24 hours and complete recovery within 72 hours. If an animal is severely affected, supportive care and artificial respiration may be needed.

In Australia, the disease commonly continues to progress after removal of ticks, and treatment is indicated for animals with motor or respiratory impairment. In cases in which an adult female Paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus, has been removed, but nevertheless clinical symptoms develop within the next 24 hours, a canine tick hyperimmune serum, also called tick antiserum (TAS), is the specific treatment against the tick paralysis. TAS should be given as early in the disease as possible; subsequent “top up” doses are not very effective. For dogs, a minimal dosage of 0.5-1.0 ml/kg, warmed up to room temperature, is given slowly intravenously.

About 5% of animals are likely to die despite all treatment efforts, especially those with advanced paralysis and dyspnea. Older animals or those with pre-existing cardiopulmonary disease are at greatest risk. For animals that recover, owners should be advised to continue searching for ticks, use appropriate preventative methods to repel and kill ticks, and avoid stressing or strenuously exercising the animal over the next two months.

Further information

  • Edlow JA, McGillicuddy DC: Tick paralysis. Inf Dis Clin North Am. 2008, 22, 397-414
  • Gordon BM, Giza CC: Tick paralysis presenting in an urban environment. Pediatr Neurol. 2004, 30, 122-4
  • Malik R, Farrow BR: Tick paralysis in North America and Australia. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 1991, 21, 157-71
  • Wright IG, Stone BF, Neish AL: Tick (Ixodes holocyclus) paralysis in the dog – induction of immunity by injection of toxin. Aust Vet J. 1983, 60, 69-70

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