Bob and Voni Faus found out that it is… the hard way. The local news reported, a week after a camping trip in Colorado, their dog Bitz was unable to move. It wasn’t until after a misdiagnosis and fear of losing him that the Faus family found the tick on sweet little Bitz. Once they removed it, their dog returned to normal. Tick paralysis is rare, but it does happen and it’s important to know the signs, especially in our fur babies who can’t tell us that they feel bad.


Tick Paralysis in dogs is caused by a neurotoxin secreted by the salivary gland of a pregnant female tick. Here in Massachusetts, the ticks responsible for causing this paralysis are dog ticks, black-legged ticks, and rarely Lone Star ticks (they simply aren’t as prevalent here). If the tick is removed and your pet is treated in the early stages it most often will fully recover. Tick paralysis causes a loss of motor function, so if it goes untreated the effect that this has on the animal’s respiratory system can cause complete failure and death.

Symptoms of tick paralysis will appear 3-10 days after attachment. Initially, they will be mild: weak hind limbs and lack of coordination. As the sickness progresses you may see vomiting, facial weakness, inability to stand, labored breathing, gagging and inability to swallow. Unlike other tick-borne illnesses, tick paralysis only occurs when the tick is attached. Generally, symptoms resolve themselves within 3 days of removal. Severally sick animals will possibly need oxygen and intravenous fluids during the time of recovery due to the weakening of the muscles. There is no test to diagnose tick paralysis and it can be confused with things like snake bites, neuropathy, and botulism to name a few. In an area where ticks are common, it should be considered if symptoms are present.


Prevention is always preferred over treatment. Follow your vet’s suggestion for topical tick control. Keep your yard cut and cleared, leaving fewer places for ticks to hide. Check your pets on a regular basis and have a good understanding of proper tick removal.

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