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Most pet owners Nigeria are well aware of the need for tick and flea prevention and the risks of flea infestations, but are relatively unaware but they can also cause something called tick paralysis.

Tick paralysis is a rapidly progressive motor paralysis caused by a toxin in the tick’s saliva that attacks the nervous system. The neurotoxin is released into the host’s bloodstream while the tick is attached and feeding on the host. It produces ascending paralysis that begins with the lower extremities and spreads to the upper extremities.

Ticks can attach anywhere even in the ears on the lips or around the anus. However, they usually attach on the front half of the dog.

Tick poisoning requires urgent vet attention, so if you think that your pet is exhibiting symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your Vet.

Causes of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Tick paralysis is caused salivary neurotoxins from an engorged, egg-laden female tick of certain species. This engorged female tick injects a salivary neurotoxin into the dog. This toxin affects the nerve endings and that causes a lack of nerve communication with the dog’s muscular system.

Signs and Symptoms of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Clinical signs are usually seen within 3-5 days of attachment. Progression of these signs are rapid of 24 to 48 hours.

Tick paralysis and poisoning symptoms typically include:

  • Heavy breathing (panting, noisy breathing and possibly grunting)
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy salivation
  • Wobbly legs (especially the back legs – dogs tend to sit but not stand)
  • Collapse

Treatment Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Unlike other diseases ticks can transmit that are caused by bacteria (lyme, erhlichiosis, anaplasmosis) or microscopic, intracellular parasites (babesiosis), tick paralysis is solely caused by the release of neurotoxin when the tick takes a blood meal.

When that tick is removed (either with forceps or the use of an oral or topical preventative that works to kill the tick) the supply of neurotoxin is cut off. Thus, by removing the offending tick, most dogs begin to regain their strength in just a few hours and be back to their normal self in just a few days.

Canine tick hyperimmune serum, also called tick antiserum (TAS), is the specific treatment for the toxin that causes tick paralysis.

If your dog suffered from respiratory distress or gastrointestinal upset from the paralysis, your vet may want to treat with supportive oxygen therapy and/or medications until your pet is fully recovered.


While it’s rare, tick paralysis can be a deadly condition. The best way to prevent tick paralysis is to take preventative actions. If you live in an endemic area for ticks, be sure your pet is on tick preventatives. Check your pet for ticks on a daily basis, and especially after hiking in wooded areas or heavily infested areas.


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