Paralysis tick attacks Paris the Fox Terrier

This is Paris, a 3 year old Fox Terrier. Her owner recently took her on a trip to the bush. A few days later, he noticed that Paris was showing some unusual symptoms, she was wobbly on her feet. Her owner had recently lost a dog to paralysis tick and was worried that the same could happen to Paris. He rushed her in to see us to find out what was the matter with her.

Dr Tanya examined Paris and highly suspected that she too had a paralysis tick. A paralysis tick is a small parasitic arachnid. A tick will embed its mouth parts in an animal's skin and feed from the host's blood. Once engorged with blood, the tick will detach itself and fall from the animal. There are many species of tick and most of them are harmless, if irritating. Paralysis ticks, however, release a neurotoxin from their saliva into the animal's blood stream. This toxin can make the animal very ill and can cause death.

In Australia many animals die every year from tick paralysis. Symptoms begin with ataxia, or unsteadiness on the feet. The animal then gradually loses other neurological functions and can become fully paralysed, leading to respiratory paralysis and death. Removal of the embedded tick and supportive treatment will often lead to a full recovery.

Dr Tanya performed a tick search on Paris. This involves thoroughly touching and examining every inch of the patient's body looking for the embedded tick. Special attention is paid to nooks and crevasses such as near joints, between toes and even inside the patient's mouth. Ticks are usually found on the head and front end of the dog, however, Dr Tanya found Paris's tick on her back end, under her tail. This highlights the need to check every inch of the patient.

Dr Tanya successfully removed the tick, taking care not to break off the mouth parts which can commonly happen. The entire tick needs to be removed to prevent further complications. Paris was found to be ataxic and without a gag reflex. This meant that if she were to eat or vomit, she was at risk of choking. This meant that she was significantly affected by the tick's toxin. She was admitted to hospital for monitoring and fluid therapy. Intravenous fluids would help to flush the toxin from her system. Paris was also sprayed with an anti-tick spray in case there were any other ticks present. A special anti-serum was couriered to the clinic and given to Paris. This anti-serum would help to remove the toxin from her system faster. She was checked twice more by Dr Raj and Nurse Dee for other ticks which may have been missed. Luckily no more ticks were found.

Paris's owner decided to take her home that night and care for her himself. The next morning, he brought her in for another check. Dr Raj examined her and found that her gag reflex had returned and she was recovering well. She is expected to make a full recovery.

Ticks are rare in inner urban areas and suburbs but can be common in bushland and farmland areas. If you and your pet visit such areas you should be aware of the risks and apply a preventative treatment such as Advantix. If you find anything on your pet which you think may be a tick, you should seek veterinary attention.