NOVEMBER – MR. BIGGLES, Tick Paralysis in town

One October day, we were presented with Mr Biggles who was unable to stand up and move around. His owner had gone looking for him after he did not come home for breakfast or dinner the night before. She found him in the garden (in town) unable to move around. He seemed bright and alert, just unable to more. Our main suspicions were Snake Bite or Tick Paralysis (which is what the owner thought, too). His breathing was normal, he was not too stressed but he was not happy either.

What did we do

After multiple tick searches (with no tick found), slightly increased clotting time, no drooling fixed dilated pupils as well as having no increased respiratory signs, he was diagnosed with nerve signs from immediate and possibly delayed nerve toxicity from a snake bite and was treated as such.

The next day, Mr Biggles was improved. His gag was much improved, he was moving around slightly more, sitting up better, licking his lips better and more alert. We were happier as was his owner. Mr Biggles was a great patient.

On the third day however, Mr Biggles was not well. He was found to be breathing with much more effort. We were immediately concerned again, for a tick. Another search was instigated and a tick was found! It was only a small tick….. but a paralysis tick never the less. So, we then had to treat him for tick paralysis. Poor Mr Biggles! he lived in town which was considered paralysis tick free, and here he was with a paralysis tick!

Through the day, he would rally then get worse, then would stabilise then get worse. Even with tick treatment, it can be at least 12 hours or more to get a response from patients even after a tick is removed.

Mr Biggles in critical condition receiving oxygen supplementation via intranasal oxygen tube. Mr Biggles’ nursing care and monitoring was constant, with treatments and observations taking place every 2 to 5 minutes.

How does Tick Paralysis work?

Tick paralysis is very serious! The toxin causes many symptoms from paralysis of legs, support muscles, breathing muscles, paralysis of muscles that prevent reflux/vomiting, loss of the gag reflex, direct toxic effects to the heart and large pupils. These symptoms can lead to death, aspiration (breathing in saliva, vomit or food) causing pneumonia or death and many secondary problems. We can never predict a tick case as some patients that seem ok can vomit and aspirate (breathe it in) and become critical within a couple of minutes, some can be critical yet go on to survive in a short time. In specialised practices, patients often go onto ventilators and some of them may still not survive. Ticks are dangerous and very toxic to all mammals and birds also. They have a nerve toxin and the toxin can also act directly on the heart to give symptoms of heart failure.

Mr Biggles was given the best support care, with his own dedicated nurse and an oxygen cage, constant evaluation of his ability to move oxygen into his blood stream and carbon dioxide out. However, paralysis ticks are designed to kill. Sadly, Mr Biggles was unable to pull through.


How can you keep your pets safe?

PREVENTION! There is a wide range of preventative products available for dogs AND cats now, so please talk to us about what will suit your pet and your lifestyle best and get them on to something! Please opt for good quality and get advice on the products you are choosing to use.
For the average cost of treating one mild to average tick paralysis case, you can purchase roughly 10 years worth of preventatives. 


This was the handsome Mr. Biggles on a normal day, lazing about on “his” couch. We were all heartbroken over his loss and want to thank his beautiful owner for allowing us to share his story so that more owners are made aware of the devastation that Tick Paralysis can cause.



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Go Back to our previous Case Of The Month stories to read about other interesting cases we have been seeing in clinic.