A few days ago, my red headed golden retriever Sam couldn't get up on her feet for our routine evening walk through the woods on our ten acres of paradise in the Green Swamp of Central Florida.
My husband, an Internist, first thought was that she had been bitten by a particular female tick in a certain phase of development that secretes a paralyzing toxin.
While he searched Sam for a tick, I panicked and called our Vet, whose office was closed for the evening.
I received a referral to an emergency vet, not far from where we lived.
I convinced my husband to end his search for a tick and by working together, we were able to lift Sam, who weighs about 90 pounds into his truck and transport her to a Veterinarian we had never met.
Neither I nor my husbands were comfortable leaving our paralyzed dog over night with this particualr Vet who diagnosed her as having a slipped vertebral disc, but we did.
The next morning, after Sam had been x-rayed and no sign of a vertebral problem found, injected with steroids, and paying a $1,000.00 bill, we brought her home although she was no better than the night before.
Whether by luck, serendipity or Divine Intervention, I will never know, but as I was petting Sam as she laid on her left side inert on our porch I discovered a watermelon seed size tick at the joint of her right foreleg.
Two hours after pulling it off, Sam got up and staggered around for a few minutes before collapsing until the next morning; when she began running around as if nothing had ever happened.
My husband then, also recalled that a dozen years ago, he read a report in a medical journal about a child who had a headache and malaise who then lost motor function and reflexes which was followed by paralysis.
The child was miss-diagnosed with Guillian-Barre' a paralytic disease caused by a virus, and if not treated can result in death due to the inability to breathe.
While in the operating room being prepped for a tracheotomy-which requires an incision into the windpipe to enable breathing, a medical student while parting her hair discovered a tick- and if it had not been pulled off of her could have caused respiratory failure and death, in less than two days.
The paralysis is caused by a mature female tick of the species Ixodes holocyclus and most frequently occurs in the spring and summer months but can be seen at any time of year. Children aged 1-5 years are most commonly affected and the tick is usually found in the scalp, often behind the ear. Usually an unsteady gait precedes an ascending, symmetrical, flaccid paralysis. Death from respiratory failure can result if the tick is not removed.
My dog Sam is back to normal and has always been dosed monthly with K9 ADVANTIX, a flea and tick topical treatment.
But, that was no guarantee from a potentially deadly flea and lots of bad luck.