TICK PARALYSIS IN DOGS: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

tick paralysis in dogs
Image source: Thornleigh Veterinary Hospital

Tick-borne paralysis in dogs can be lethal, making paralysis ticks one of the most hazardous parasites that can infect your pet. It’s critical to understand the dangers of tick paralysis and how to keep your dog safe.

What is Tick Paralysis In Dogs?

Tick paralysis is a condition caused by a paralyzing toxin that ticks secrete while feeding and attaches to dogs, cats, and humans. If left untreated, it can lead to respiratory or cardiac failure.

What Causes Tick Paralysis In Dogs?

A particular tick, Lxodes holocyclus, which is present along Australia’s east coast and is particularly common on bushland like Sydney’s North Shore, is responsible for this paralysis.

This grayish-greenish tick can range in size from a pinhead to a thumbnail. The longer the tick has been on your pet, eating the blood and growing engorged, the bigger it is. The symptoms are brought on by the neurotoxins in the saliva that it secretes into your pet’s bloodstream.

How Do Paralysis Ticks Appear?

The size of a paralysis tick varies according to how much blood it has ingested from its host. In Australia, the eastern paralysis tick is to blame for the majority of tick paralysis cases. The first and last pairs of legs of the eastern paralysis tick are a darker shade of brown than the middle two pairs of legs (beige). It is advised to consult your local veterinary clinic for guidance because it can be challenging to determine the species of a tick.

Symptoms Of Tick Paralysis In Dogs?

In any order, your dog may exhibit one or more of the tick paralysis symptoms listed below:

  • Loss of balance (wobbliness) in the back legs, which could spread to the front legs. This is particularly obvious when moving in a figure-eight pattern, bouncing up and down, and climbing stairs.
  • Having trouble standing
  • Having trouble sitting
  • Incapable of standing or moving from a laying posture
  • Breathing that is labored or fast, grunting noises, or belly heaving
  • Alterations or loss of bark
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting and gaging
  • Reduced appetite
  • Inability of one or both eyes to blink

You should consult a veterinarian right away if your dog exhibits any symptoms of tick paralysis.

Symptoms of a Paralysis Tick Following Removal

Consult your veterinarian even if you locate a tick but no symptoms of tick paralysis are present since symptoms of tick paralysis might appear even after the insect has been removed.

Diagnosing Tick Paralysis On Dogs

When a dog exhibits the classic clinical symptoms of tick paralysis and a paralysis tick or tick crater—a scabby, round skin lesion where a tick had previously been attached—is discovered. Due to the difficulty in locating ticks, it can occasionally be difficult to confirm a case of tick paralysis. Call your vet and bring your pet in as soon as you notice any probable clinical symptoms of tick paralysis developing.

Treatment of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Depending on how severe the problem is, there are different treatments for tick paralysis in dogs. The best course of action will be recommended by your veterinarian. There is a tick antitoxin serum that can be used to counteract the toxin’s effects. In order to get supportive care as they recover from the toxin’s effects, dogs often need to be hospitalized. Dogs with extremely severe conditions can require the use of a ventilator to assist with breathing while they recuperate.

Recovery Time For Tick Paralysis On Dogs

Tick paralysis can vary in length and severity. Intensive care for some dogs may be needed in a veterinary clinic for a few days or even weeks. Regardless of the severity, your pet needs to relax and avoid physical activity for two to three weeks after leaving the hospital. If stress levels are not properly controlled, tick paralysis can continue to harm the heart muscle and the oesophagus for weeks after therapy.

The majority of dogs will recover from tick paralysis with the right care. Even with the best veterinarian care, some dogs will regrettably pass away due to the level of care needed to cure tick paralysis, which can cost thousands of dollars. It pays to take preventative measures all year long and treat your dog’s ticks using a reliable product.

Paralysis Tick Prevention For Dogs

#1. Use a tick-control solution that works. 

Within 24 hours, NexGard® and NexGard SPECTRA® successfully eliminate pre-existing paralysis ticks and offer protection from paralysis ticks, brown dog ticks, and bush ticks for a full month.

#2. Inspect and remove ticks daily.

Although most ticks that your dog may be exposed to will be controlled by tick control treatments, tick paralysis can still occur with just one tick. If you live in or are traveling with your pet through a known tick area, it is crucial to daily check your pet for ticks as well. To find out more, click here.

#3. Limit contact with ticks outside.

Ticks that cause paralysis spend a large portion of their life cycle outside. Wildlife can easily bring them onto your property. Making your garden less appealing to ticks can be done by removing leaf litters and maintaining mowed grass.

Life Cycle of the Tick

The life cycle of the Australian paralysis tick has four distinct stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. It takes the life cycle about a year to complete (minimum 135-437 days)


A tick’s female adult can produce up to 3000 eggs in one litter, but only some of those hatches and live to reproduce. They are deposited in leaf litter every month. Before hatching to become larvae, they will remain as eggs for 40–60 days.


A larva has six legs. They start looking for a host as soon as they hatch in order to obtain a blood meal. Before leaving the host and going through a molt to become nymphs, they feed for 4-6 days. From MONTH TO MONTH, we observe this stage of the life cycle.


A nymph has eight legs. They will consume another blood meal on a different host after molting. From March to August, this phase of the life cycle is visible. If there are several nymphs on one host, they can paralyze that host.


Adult paralysis ticks search for a host after molting. Male ticks use the host to locate female ticks in order to breed and feed from them. Female ticks need a host for a blood meal. Males eat females’ hemolymph by puncturing the cuticle with their mouth parts. To finish the life cycle, the female ticks detach and deposit eggs.

Can A Dog Survive A Paralysis Tick?

The good survival rate for tick paralysis is 95% when detected early and without complications. The dog’s chance of life is 50% should it worsen to the point where a ventilator is required.

Can Tick Paralysis Be Cured?

Tick paralysis is a rare condition, but it is crucial to diagnose it since it can be lethal or very nearly so. The removal of ticks and supportive care can, however, cure this sickness if it is discovered quickly.

Does Insurance Cover Tick Paralysis In Dogs?

Although general practice veterinarians handle the majority of tick paralysis cases, there has been an increase in the number of dogs and cats obtaining care at emergency and specialist/referral facilities, which can offer critical patients round-the-clock care.

Given that the tick poison affects an animal’s ability to breathe, certain animals need help breathing in order to maintain proper oxygen levels.

Because therapy might cost thousands of dollars if the pet needs intensive care and/or mechanical breathing help, prevention is always better than cure.

Typically, annual sub-limits for paralysis tick treatment are included in pet insurance policies, limiting the amount of coverage you can receive. For complete coverage information, contact your insurer.

Here’s how you can safeguard your pet:

Use protection against paralysis ticks. Excellent long-acting, simple-to-use products are available. Vets at PetSure advise using NexGard, Seresto, or Bravecto. These products also protect against fleas, which is a benefit. Veterinarians can also recommend the best product based on the specifics of each case.

If you can, stay away from bushy areas. Paralysis ticks are found in the coastal region of Australia’s east coast, which stretches from far north Queensland to Victoria. Use preventatives before venturing into tick-prone locations, even for brief periods.

To make it simpler to discover ticks, trim long-haired pets. daily check for ticks on pets (front legs, neck, face, and ears are common targets).

Check your pet’s entire body for ticks, and if you find one, look for others.

If a tick is discovered, get quick veterinary care and remove it with a pair of tweezers by gently tugging upwards.

In Conclusion

Tick paralysis is brought on by a toxin that the female tick injects into the animal’s blood along with her saliva. Lower motor neuron paralysis is the direct result of the toxin’s effects on the nervous system. The best way to avoid tick paralysis on your dogs is to take the preventive measures we have outlined in this guide.

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