Treatment of Paralysis Tick Poisoning
Only a very small percentage of animals will survive without treatment. Unfortunately, some animals also die despite being given all the appropriate treatment.
The overall mortality rate for Australia for all tick cases is 10%, no matter how mild the symptoms at presentation. For each year over 6 years of age, the mortality rate increases by another 10%.
Boxers, Bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds are very prone to sudden death from paralysis ticks and are always a high risk no matter how mild the symptoms.
Because the chances of successful treatment decrease as the symptoms progress, and the fact that there is no way of telling which will survive without treatment, the only way to ensure your pet has the best chance of survival is to seek early veterinary treatment.
Where does the tick anti-venom come from?
The tick anti-serum comes from Lismore where there is a colony of large dogs that are immune to ticks. These dogs have had paralysis ticks attached to their ears for short periods at regular intervals making them immune to the tick toxin.
The dogs are regularly sedated to collect blood from them. The blood is spun down in a centrifuge and the clear serum is siphoned off and bottled. This is the tick anti-venom; the serum of an immune dog.
The intensive nature of this exercise results in an expensive product.
Early treatment with anti-serum is vitally important
The anti serum is very effective if given early in the course of the condition. If pets are left too long to have the anti serum, it may not work and owners are left with a deceased pet and a large bill.
The tick anti-serum contains large tick antibodies. They are very good at neutralising tick toxin that is in the blood stream. However, once tick toxin starts to travel down the nerves towards the muscles, the large antibodies can’t follow the same pathway as they are too big to fit.
This is why it is vitally important to get the anti-serum in ASAP.
You can miss this golden window of opportunity
by as little as ten minutes
The pet won’t look much different at the end of 10 minutes, but in that time, the toxin may have started to travel down the nerves. Once this happens, it does not matter how much tick anti-venom is given, it just will not work.
Occasionally, some of the tick toxin poisons the heart directly. This in addition to the paralysis of the muscles of the legs and chest that are used for breathing. The cardiac toxin effect of the tick toxin is not reversed by the use of anti-tick serum. These cases have to be treated for cardiac failure, otherwise the prognosis is very poor.
We will consider a possible tick case as an emergency. It may be necessary for your pet's coat to be clipped off to find the tick or crater left in the skin where a tick was attached.
While antiserum and hospitalisation involve some expense both are nearly always essential if you want to ensure your pet has the best chance of survival. Hospitalisation is very important as there are often serious complications that require assessment and other medications which can only be given by injection.