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Tick paralysis in cats usually affects younger animals with poor immunity. Some cats have been known to survive as long as two to four years.
Tick paralysis is an infection and inflammation of the intestine that causes severe vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. The disease affects especially young cats. It is most common in the South, Southwest, Rocky Mountain region, and Northern New England.
How does tick paralysis spread?
The disease is caused by a virus that is spread by soft-bodied ticks that bite dogs, cats, horses, cattle and deer. Ticks are most common in wooded areas, near fields and in grassy fields.
It's possible for cats to contract tick paralysis from outdoor exposure, because adult ticks can stay attached for several days to exposed skin. Cats can contract the disease from an infected tick on the outdoors.
Symptoms and signs of tick paralysis
Most cats are brought to their veterinarians when they develop a very fast heart rate, poor appetite, abdominal pain and vomiting. They may also exhibit severe diarrhea and/or fever.
It's not possible to determine which ticks are responsible, but it's likely that ticks from different species are responsible, says Dr. Lisa Poullion.
Ticks are a problem for domestic cats, but tick paralysis in dogs is most common in the South, she says. Most dogs survive a case of tick paralysis, but the disease can be fatal. Dogs develop neurologic problems and a condition known as paralytic polyneuropathy.
A case of tick paralysis in a dog often begins with high fever and weight loss, the American Veterinary Medical Association reports. Dogs that are tick-sore may have a decrease in appetite and loss of coordination.
Diagnosing tick paralysis in a dog can be difficult. Blood and tissue tests aren't specific. A doctor will examine a dog's teeth for adult ticks or will cut open the skin to determine the presence of a tick or larva. Diagnosing an attached tick on the skin with a needle isn't a good idea, however, since this can lead to the animal's death.
Treatment for tick paralysis in dogs
The goal of treatment for tick paralysis in dogs is to eliminate the tick that causes the disease, Dr. Poullion says.
Possibly infected ticks are removed by a veterinarian, and any attached ticks are treated with a special acaricide. If the tick causes disease in a dog, it's killed by destroying the tick's body. This should be done by boiling the tick for several minutes.
If a dog develops neurologic problems because of tick paralysis, the doctor will perform diagnostic tests to rule out other causes. Other treatments may be necessary to relieve the dog's symptoms.
Preventing tick paralysis in dogs
Veterinarians recommend that your dog be vaccinated for tick paralysis. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the currently available vaccine can reduce the risk of being infected with the Lyme disease bacterium. You can protect your dog from a tick that's carrying the bacterium by vaccinating the animal before the tick attaches.
Dogs that are being vaccinated for tick-borne diseases should receive a second vaccination six to eight weeks after their first shot. This vaccine should contain a tick-borne illness as well as Lyme disease.
A dog that has never been vaccinated against Lyme disease should receive a one-time treatment with a tick vaccine. If the owner of the dog decides to use the vaccine, the veterinarian should use the vaccine within a couple of weeks of the dog's initial treatment.
A product containing both a tick vaccine and Lyme disease vaccine is available in some veterinary supply stores.
There's a special warning about giving two types of vaccine in the same needle. The reason is that the combined vaccine has only been tested in rabbits and rats. It hasn't been tested in dogs.
While your dog receives a vaccine against Lyme disease, she's more likely to be exposed to a tick that's carrying the disease. Because there's no vaccine for canine Lyme disease, if a tick bites a dog that's already been vaccinated against Lyme disease, the dog won't be protected.
Dogs that have never been vaccinated against Lyme disease should receive a one-time treatment with a tick vaccine.
## A Peculiar Disease
If a tick bites your dog and carries Lyme disease in its gut, your pet may be sicker than one carrying the disease in her blood. According to one researcher, dogs that get bitten by a tick that's carrying the Lyme disease bacterium may be suffering from a "lymphatic" or "lymphadenopathy" disease. Dogs that develop this type of illness will probably die before the tick's been removed from their body.
Ticks will get stuck when your dog scratches or licks her body. Your pet should be vaccinated before being exposed to these ticks, or she should be vaccinated with a product containing both Lyme disease and tick-borne illness vaccines. The vaccine should be administered within a couple of weeks of her initial vaccination.
The best way to protect your dog from Lyme disease is to keep your pet's vaccinations current, which will keep her safe from all canine illnesses. Remember to follow the package instructions for the vaccination products you use, as vaccines may be administered in different amounts. Always read your product package for the most up-to-date recommendations for your pet.
## A Heart-Throbbing Disease
An often-misdiagnosed condition that plagues both pets and people, tick-borne disease can wreak havoc on dogs, but it's also a health issue for their human companions. Your dog may have heart-attack symptoms if the tick that's carrying Lyme disease burrows into her heart. Symptoms of tick-borne disease may include heart failure, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, swollen joints, depression and an overall feeling of malaise. Fortunately, many dogs who contract tick-borne disease will recover fully after antibiotic treatment and a follow-up visit to the veterinarian. However, your vet should be able to diagnose the illness quickly and administer a tick-prevention treatment to your dog, which will decrease the likelihood of your pet becoming a Lyme disease patient.
## Common Tick Species
If you don't take steps to remove ticks before they bite your dog, they'll spread Lyme disease to your pet, and, worse, to you as well. A large number of ticks can carry Lyme disease, just one bite by a tick can infect your dog. Your best defense against Lyme disease is to regularly check your dog's entire body for ticks and remove them promptly. You should brush your pet's fur with a slicker brush and shampoo it thoroughly before doing so. This helps to remove tick larvae and nymphs that may be embedded in your pet's fur and, thus, reduce the risk of Lyme disease. Be sure to remove any ticks that have molted or detached from their skin, which means that they've passed through your dog's hair and are now active.
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