Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Day 2644 - Our Experience with Paralysis Tick

Prevention is always better than a cure.

Alfred Winston on Christmas Day before he got sick
You may be aware that we provided a home for our fur grand kids nine months ago to help out Chelsea as she made some very important life adjustments.

As with any grand children, the fur variety have been part of our lives since day one.  They are very important members of the extended family.

So to have one of them fighting for his life has caused us obvious heartbreak.

Since having them in our home they have become more than just the dogs we acquired.  They have managed to plant themselves firmly inside our hearts.  And by "plant" I don't just mean they've tugged at our heart strings.  I actually mean they did that whole doggy sniff test, adjusted the bedding, did ten doggy spins until they found the perfect position and then nestled themselves comfortably in our heart space.

Dog owners living on the east coast of Australia should be aware that the paralysis tick is prevalent at the coast and that we should safeguard our dogs against such nasties.

When we were at the coast between Christmas and New Year we knew we should have taken precautions, but we didn't.  We made some attempts to source tick collars on arrival by visiting the local supermarkets, but we didn't pursue it beyond that because we did what so many Aussies tend to do and said "she'll be right mate".

Instead we made a decision to check the dogs for ticks each night and trust that everything would be OK.  We'd never had tick issues before with our previous dog, why should there be a problem now?

We'll never let that happen again.

Last Tuesday afternoon, Alfie got sick.  He started to gag like he wanted to vomit but nothing was coming out. It was almost like he had something stuck in his throat.  It wasn't continuous.  Just the occasional gag to make us aware that something was amiss.

I tried to take him for a walk but within 100 metres the gagging commenced again and he started to pant heavily.  I took him straight back home and watched him stagger ever-so-slightly as we climbed the stairs to the house.

I headed straight to the vet who inspected him for ticks, chatted about heart worm and finally diagnosed him with a virus.

At midnight I awoke with a start.  I had a feeling of dread as the heebie jeebies set in.  I lay there thinking about Alfie and felt that something was wrong.  As I went to check on him he tried to walk to me but couldn't. His legs failed him as he wobbled across the floor.  He was panting. His eyes looked wild.

I checked in with Dr Google and discovered that his symptoms matched that of a tick bite.

  • increased breathing
  • coughing/gagging
  • excessive salivation
  • weakness in the hind legs

I woke the hubster and together we checked his body from top to bottom, until I finally found the tick bastard right in plain sight.  Under his left eye looking very much like a flesh coloured wart (not the black 'beetle' I'd been searching for).

Tick on the left before attaching to dog - engorged tick full of blood on the right after attaching to dog.
Note: Our tick was not grey/black - ours was "white"
We took him straight to the emergency vet and he's been there ever since, fighting for his life.

A tick bite is highly toxic. We wonder if we'd found the tick at our 5.30pm appointment, could Alfie have recovered within a few days?  Could that extra seven hours have made things worse?

The treatment is an anti-toxin that stops the poison from spreading through the body. What it doesn't do is fix what has already infected the nerves and muscles.  The dog's body has to fight that on its own.

Because the throat is affected, dogs can also develop complications from a lack of gag reflex which means they can aspirate (inhale food or saliva) causing life threatening pneumonia.

I guess the worse thing about the tick bite is that dogs usually get worse before they get better.

The photo taken yesterday as Alfie comes off the critical list
One of the best recovery tools for dogs is to be kept completely quiet and relaxed.  As Alfie is a very enthusiastic pooch, he is easily excitable.  Our initial visits to the vet impeded his recovery because he was getting too worked up.  We had to spend the entire week at the other end of a phone which is probably the hardest part of all this.  Not being there.

I am able to write about this today because he is finally off the critical list.  Yesterday we had a quiet visit to assess him and determine if he's ready to come home.

He still does not have the use of his hind legs and he's only just come off the oxygen, but his gag reflex is back, he can blink again, he can urinate (albeit on his bed) and as of yesterday he was able to eat some chicken.

Today they will take him off the drip and may give him a mild sedative to keep him calm so we bring him home.

He will require 24/7 care until he is fully recovered.

They say the paralysis is temporary and he will be able to walk again.

Getting him ready to come home.
Good tick prevention isn't cheap.  Preventative medication can cost around $100 per dog for three months.  However, it's a hell of a lot better than the cure.

The anti-toxin alone is $1500, without factoring in a week's worth of hospital care and additional medications.

Not knowing whether or not your fur baby will ever come home due to something you could have prevented is heart breaking.

To find out more about ticks click here.

If you feel that your dog might have a tick then call a vet ASAP.

If you live on the coast, or visit the coast (even if only for a weekend), then make sure you take preventative measures.

Note: Apparently ticks affect cats as well as dogs.

Prevention is always better than a cure.

Have you had experience with ticks?

Ever had a fur baby in a critical condition?


  1. Sheesh! Poor dog! I hope things are coming good now. What a frightening thing to happen. X

  2. Poor pupper!! How awful for all involved but glad he's in the mend!

  3. Oh my Gosh!! How awful for you all and poor Alfie too. I can't imagine how scary that must have been. I'm glad he is on the mend. #teamIBOT

  4. Nasty things ticks. We have one dog who is fortunately immune to them?? and another who has had many expensive trips to the vet to fix her up. Glad to be living in a relatively tick free area now. Glad your puppy is doing better now.

  5. Oh that's scary. You've reminded me to check what our paralysis tick treatment is - our dog has so many medications that it's my husbands job as he's home more than me. So glad your fur baby is getting better.

  6. I'm really glad Alfie is on the mend. I can't even imagine how stressful that was for you. xx

  7. This is awful to read but good to know on what to look for if our dog does get a tick. So glad Alfie is getting better and I hope he makes a fairly full recovery. xx

  8. I'm so glad Alfie is now off the critical list Leanne! I'm so sorry you've had this awful scare. I've always had dogs and never had a tick experience. I've been lucky! I've been thinking of him and wondering how he is going so though I'm sad he has been in hospital this long, I'm happy to read he is no longer critical and that he will soon go home! :-) xo

  9. Oh that was a dreadful situation and I am glad he is recovering...mind you, the humans in his life have had one helluva shock that is for sure.


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