Paralysis Tick Bite in Dogs

Native animals such as marsupials, birds and reptiles are the natural hosts, however, ticks are not fussy and will also become attached to dogs. Once attached, the tick sucks blood and increases dramatically in size as it becomes engorged. The tick continually injects saliva into the bite to prevent the blood clotting and in doing so progressively poisons the dog.

Dogs are at special risk after they have visited a tick infested area since the engorging tick(s) are rarely found until the dog is showing sings of intoxication. This is why it is important to examine your dog every day for ticks.

From the time of attachment of ticks to dogs, the earliest signs seen vary from 6 to 14 days with most dogs showing signs on the seventh day. Sometimes, paralysis occurs 1 or 2 days after the engorged ticks fall off.

What are the signs of paralysis tick bites?

Any sign of back leg weakness or a voice (bark) change in a known tick infested region should be a reason for immediate veterinary examination.

The symptoms to watch for are:

  • Loss of coordination in the hind legs (wobbly or not being able to get up)
  • Change in voice or bark
  • Retching, coughing or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Progressive paralysis to include the forelegs
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing

Not all cases follow a simple progression and the animal can die suddenly in the very early stages of paralysis.

More information can be found in the general Tick section.

Dog paralysed by ticks
Photo courtesy Dr Linda Abraham, University of Melbourne