Need a little help with your tick identification? TickSpotters is America’s crowd-sourced tick survey and free portal to a tick expert. Be sure to submit a clear picture of your tick in order to receive your personalized tick ID confirmation, riskiness analysis, and best next actions to take.
The Tick Guy’s TIP of the month for K9 Handlers: Tick Paralysis
Ticks can do more damage to your dogs (and kids) than just stealing blood or transmitting disease-causing germs. Certain types of ticks also secrete toxins in their saliva that can cause a temporary paralysis, usually an ascending lower motor neuron (LMN) paralysis where the muscles stay in a state of relaxation. While tick paralysis is relatively rare and certainly doesn’t affect every animal bitten, even more curious is that only certain individuals within a population of paralysis-causing ticks even produce the toxin. And of those, it’s only the female ticks that cause paralysis. Symptom onset typically occurs about 5-7 days after the tick starts biting.
Australia has a dangerous and aptly named paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) but in the United States, it’s the Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni) and to a lesser extent, the American dog tick (D. variabilis) mostly associated with paralysis cases in pets and people. Tick paralysis usually affects the lower extremities first, with a flaccid paralysis, otherwise unexplained muscle weakness, and lack of ankle, knee or abdominal reflexes. Removal of the attached ticks typically terminates the condition with complete recovery. In extreme cases, death of the pet can occur from chest muscle paralysis and respiratory failure.
There are other causes of similar LMN paralysis in dogs (see coonhound paralysis), but vigilant use of effective tick bite prevention can prevent tick paralysis along with other diseases transmitted by ticks. Learn more about TickSmart pet tick preventers here.