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Tick Paralysis and your Dog

Updated: Nov 3, 2023


Ixodes Holocyclus! The Paralysis Tick. A tick which may prove fatal to your dog if not found, removed and then treated by a Veterinarian urgently.

Paralysis tick season generally runs from Spring into late Autumn1, however, in Queensland our warm temperatures and humidity can mean that tick season is pretty much all year round; so, we, as dog owners and breeders, must never be complacent when it comes to implementing paralysis tick safety measures.

Taking time to try and identify a tick which has burrowed into your dog’s skin unnecessary.

Our goal should be simple: remove any and all ticks found, regardless of the type; and get to the Vet.


The tick attaches to the skin and feeds on your dog’s blood, all while excreting a neurotoxin from their saliva.

If left untreated, this neurotoxin will cause paralysis of muscles which are responsible for breathing2

Tick parasites will attach wherever they can; generally, they will be found at the head and neck area, however you may find them in between toes, inside the mouth and/or around the anus.

Are they in your area?

If you live on the east coast of Australia and/or if you are near bushland or have lots of vegetation or long grasses then the answer is probably yes.

Safety Precautions

  • If possible avoid potential tick areas / habitats when walking your dog;

  • Do tick checks everyday if you cannot avoid tick habitats;

  • Apply and maintain tick prevention control products

  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of tick paralysis disease and act immediately

Immediate veterinary attention is needed for any dog showing signs of tick paralysis.

Signs & Symptoms

If you notice any of the following, please respond immediately.

E.g. ‘my dog’s bark sounds different today’ = act; ‘why is my dog all wobbly’? = act; don’t wait for multiple symptoms before commencing a head to tail assessment!

Stage 1

  • Change in sound of bark

  • Coughing, retching or gagging

  • Weakness in hind legs, progressing to front legs

  • Anxiety

  • Lethargy

Stage 2

  • Wobbliness in back legs (appears drunk)

  • Difficulty getting up

  • Excessive salivation, drooling

  • Regurgitation or vomiting

  • Loud panting, grunting on breathing out

  • Inability to swallow

  • Dilated pupils (pupils enlarge)

Stage 3

  • Body becomes limp (paralysed)

  • Gums cool to touch

  • Gums blue in colour

  • Respiratory failure / cardiac arrest


1. If you begin noticing signs and symptoms of tick paralysis then undertake a Secondary Assessment without delay

  • Nose to Tail - Run your fingers along your dog’s body, parting fur as you go, applying enough pressure to feel abnormalities. Use a torch if you notice something odd so as not to pull on skin tags or warts; if you cannot tell, get to the Vet

  • Use torch to look inside the mouth, especially gums; around genital areas; in between toes, and inside ears

  • Remove any and all ticks from your dog with your tick twister tool or forceps. Try to remove the entire tick, including head, however if you accidently leave the head in the dog, do not panic; remove any and all other ticks and get to the Vet

2. Keep dog cool and calm; remove water and food – do not allow pet to eat or drink

3. Monitor ABC through entire action process in case symptoms worsen

  • Check the airway for blockages or foreign objects; or a missed tick. Remove if there is

  • Check the breathing (respirations) e.g. count the rise and fall of the chest – start artificial respiration if not breathing

  • Check circulation (pulse) – start CPR if no pulse

On the way to the Vet; (if you have a driver):

  • If your dog stops breathing, begin artificial respiration on the way to the vet surgery

  • If your dog’s heart stops beating, begin CPR on the way to the vet surgery



Merck Vet Manual2

Fursafe Emergency Dog First Aid Guide

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