Is there a cure for advanced tick paralysis?
Among the many creepy things about ticks is a strange syndrome called tick paralysis.
Tick paralysis occurs when nerve poisons (called neurotoxins) in tick saliva enter an infested animal’s bloodstream. The neurotoxins cause progressive muscle weakness. The first sign usually is weakness in the hind legs that may lead to staggering. The symptoms then spread to other portions of the body, ultimately leading to paralysis. In extreme cases the muscles that are used for breathing become paralyzed. This can lead to to death.
Death from tick paralysis is very rare. Also, most animals that are infested with ticks do not suffer from the syndrome. Some individuals appear to be very sensitive to the neurotoxin. Other individuals are quite resistant. Some ticks seem to produce much more of the neurotoxin than others. Therefore, although heavy, long-term tick infestation is most likely to lead to paralysis, some dogs can suffer from the syndrome even with light infestations. Conversely, many (most, in fact) dogs with very severe tick infestations show no symptoms of tick paralysis.
The only cure for tick paralysis is to remove the ticks. Many individuals require supportive (nursing) care during their recovery. Recovery from tick paralysis generally occurs over several hours, but in severe cases it can take several days. Dogs with paralyzed respiratory muscles may require intensive care and treatment with a ventilator until the toxin clears from the bloodstream.
As with all things tick related, the best bet is to prevent infestation in the first place. Several high-quality tick preventatives, such as Frontline, are available for dogs.