Barney's experience with tick paralysis

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Murwillumbah Veterinary Clinic
8-10 Queen St
Murwillumbah
NSW 2484

Phone:
02 6672 1919
Fax:
02 6672 1918

We recently saw a lovely Kelpie named Barney, who had tick paralysis.  His recovery was slow, due to a condition known as megaoesophagus. 

At Murwillumbah Vet Clinic, we see many animals suffering from paralysis ticks.  Not all patients recover in the same way. We always give patients sedation, tick antiserum and sometimes will need to give anti-nausea medication or antibiotics.  Then we will use a spray to make sure there are no little ticks that may not have been found and are pumping toxin in while we are treating them with the tick antiserum. Then it is a waiting game to make sure that the animals body is able to function normally again.

Paralysis from ticks can affect (in varying degrees) their ability to walk,  breathe, urinate or defaecate, sometimes the ability to blink is impaired and they are then given hourly eye lubrication to avoid the eye drying out and ulcers appearing. The ability to swallow can be impaired.  This can be a big problem.  Because the oesophagus is affected by paralysis, fluid, food or saliva can go into the trachea instead and then into the lungs.  When patients are recovering, we will check their gag reflex to assess if they could cope with swallowing.  If we think they have enough of a gag reflex, we will start a water trial, where they have a few laps of water and then we wait and see if this induces any vomiting or coughing. 

In Barneys case, he took a lot longer to be able to keep fluids down, than we usually see. All of his other functions had returned well - he could walk, urinate and breathe quite well, yet he still could not swallow properly. This is because of his megaoesophagus. In this condition, instead of functioning normally and squeezing the food down into his stomach the oesophagus is like a floppy sack collecting saliva and food, and making him feel very nauseated. Because he could not swallow properly he had to be placed on a continuous intravenous infusion with special vitamins, anti-nausea drugs, and some sedation in it to keep him calm and relaxed (he IS a Kelpie).  He was also given a bed tilted on an angle so that fluid from his mouth would run out and not into his lungs.

Barney is now home recovering well from the tick.  He will still need to take it easy for a while and will be given soft food and no bones for the next few weeks  until his functionality returns completely to normal.  Because the heart is a muscle, it can also be affected during the paralysis and if he does too much exercise, could have a heart attack. 

They are nasty little creatures those ticks and we strongly advise people use tick prevention and also consider taking up pet insurance.  Sadly, animals suffer from tick paralysis no matter if they live in the town or country and whether they are inside or outside. No two animals respond in the same way, some recover quickly, some slowly, some need to go to the specialist for 24 hour care and sometimes the ticks poison claims their lives.


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