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Tick paralysis in dogs is caused due to the biting of certain types of poisonous female ticks. Female ticks of the species D. andersoni, Ixodes holocyclus, and Dermacentor variabilis secrete a toxic fluid called neurotoxin. There are almost 40 species of ticks that can cause this infection. Their saliva contains neurotoxins which can cause muscle weakness in dogs.

Dermacentor variabilis is found in America while Ixodes holocyclus is of Australian origin. The neurotoxin directly affects the nervous system of the dog and causes paralysis. Given below are the causes and symptoms.

Causes

Ticks are present in bushes, trees, shrubs, etc or on animals who live in such bushland areas. These ticks can also infect your dog through hosts like birds, reptiles, other dogs, etc. Thus, whenever your dog has been in such an environment for a longer period of time, it is better that you examine its skin for the presence of any tick. Ticks can be found in almost all parts of the world and all year round. The specific seasons when they are present in large numbers is the period between spring and late autumn. When the dog comes in contact with such a poisonous female tick, it adheres to the dog's skin and sucks blood through it. Thus, it feeds on the dog's blood. It produces neurotoxin in its salivary gland which is then passed into the bloodstream of the dog. It affects the nervous system of the dog by blocking the nerve function associated with the muscles.

Symptoms

The neurotoxin affects the nervous system in a gradual manner. Thus, the symptoms can also be noticed in a progressive pattern. However, this progression may not be observed in all dog breeds. Sometimes, the dog may show symptoms of the last stage a few days after being bitten. So, if you are living in tick-prone areas, better watch out for them on daily basis. The symptoms can be divided into three phases, initial stage, later stage, and last stage.

Initial Stage
  • Sudden change in the bark, it may become soft with a low pitch.
  • Frequent vomiting.
  • Hind legs may become weak, the dog may find it difficult to walk.
  • The dog may sit suddenly while walking.
Later Stage
  • Shakiness or wobbling of the hind legs.
  • Drooling, and excess vomiting and salivation.
  • Loud breathing, panting excessively, making grunting noises.
  • Dogs with small noses can exhibit signs of breathing or respiratory problems.
Last Stage
  • With gradual poisoning, the dog will find it very difficult to stand.
  • Breathing problem becomes worse.
  • Due to worsened breathing, the gums turn blue and cold.
  • The dog may eventually die.
The symptoms can be noticed after five days of being bitten. Pet owners who live in bushland areas should always monitor their dogs' health for preventing this infection. Tick removal from the dog is an easy job that requires few steps. The tick can cause paralysis when it has stayed on the dog's body for more than two days. Thus, dog owners should check the dog's skin on a daily basis and remove ticks, if any.

Prevention is the best method. When you observe any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should consult a veterinarian at the earliest. The veterinarian will prescribe certain anti-toxins that can help to recover the dog's health. Certain tick repellent lotions are available in market that can help in avoiding tick bites. So, use one recommended by the veterinarian.