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Tick Paralysis in Cats

By William B. Thomas, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Neurology), Professor, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Tennessee ; Kyle G. Braund, BVSc, MVSc, PhD, FRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), Director, Veterinary Neurological Consulting Services ; Cheryl L. Chrisman, DVM, MS, EDS, DACVIM (Neurology), Professor of Veterinary Neurology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida ; Caroline N. Hahn, DVM, MSc, PhD, DECEIM, DECVN, MRCVS, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Clinical Neuroscience, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh ; Charles M. Hendrix, DVM, PhD, Professor, Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University ; Karen R. Munana, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Neurology), Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine,North Carolina State University ; T. Mark Neer, DVM, DACVIM, Professor and Hospital Director, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University ; Charles E. Rupprecht, VMD, MS, PhD, Director, LYSSA LLC ; Robert Wylie, BVSc, QDA

Also see professional content regarding tick paralysis.

Tick paralysis is a sudden, progressive motor paralysis caused by a salivary toxin that attacks the nervous system. Certain species of ticks are known to cause tick paralysis. People (especially children) and many other animals may be affected. Human cases of tick paralysis caused by the genera Ixodes, Dermacentor, and Amblyomma have been reported in Australia, North America, Europe, and South Africa. These 3 genera plus Rhipicephalus, Haemaphysalis, Otobius, and Argas have been associated with paralysis in animals. Cats seem to be resistant to the disease caused by these ticks, except in Australia where Ixodes holocyclus causes a severe and often fatal paralysis in cats.

Topical treatment with any product to kill attached ticks must only be done with chemicals that are safe for use in cats. In Australia, treatment for Ixodes holocyclus paralysis involves a specific antiserum (tick hyperimmune serum), in addition to treatment to minimize stress and support respiration (Veterinary.heading on page Tick Paralysis in Dogs).