Granby – Quick action saves family pet from tick paralysis |

Granby – Quick action saves family pet from tick paralysis

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Kathy Hulley of Granby wasn’t sure what was wrong with her 3-year-old German shepherd Diane.

Hulley noticed right away early Tuesday morning that her dog was dragging her hind legs, unable to move them.

By the time Hulley brought Diane to the vet’s office mid-morning, Diane’s symptoms had deteriorated to the point she could hardly walk.

Seeing the dog’s paralysis, Dr. Michael Brooks immediately started checking for ticks.

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Sure enough, one was removed from under the dog’s left-front armpit.

The small, poisonous tick was deemed the cause of Diane’s paralyzed limbs.

Had the symptoms been ignored, the paralysis might have reached Diane’s respiratory muscles, threatening death in as soon as a day.

Relieved she took Diane to the vet rather than run off to work that morning, Hulley said Diane seemed fine otherwise.

“Her appetite was good, her eyes were clear and she didn’t seem to be in any pain,” she said.

But the paralysis ascended rapidly.

“What scared me the most is how fast it progressed,” she said.

Diane had Canine Tick Paralysis – rare but prevalent enough for dog owners to be aware.

“It’s not very common, but boy when it hits, it’s devastating,” said veterinarian Brooks. “It’s something that most people don’t know about, but it is a local problem.”

Brooks estimates in his 25 years of practice, he’s seen a total of eight cases.

“The symptoms are so devastating that if it’s misdiagnosed, you could spend a lot on unnecessary testing. So it’s really good, if you have a dog that shows signs of hind-end paralysis, to be sure to check for ticks.”

A female tick attaches to the animal and injects a neurotoxin through her saliva. The toxin prevents nerve signals from reaching muscles, resulting in eventual paralysis.

Dogs may attract ticks in brush-covered areas frequented by animals such as squirrels and deer, which commonly harbor ticks. The ticks can hide in the folds of a canine’s skin.

According to Dr. Brooks, the longer and wetter the spring season, the longer the tick season may be.

Vets recommend preventative measures such as topical prescription-grade, once-a-month tick treatments for dogs.

Like many dog owners in Grand County, Hulley had never thought about the threat of ticks before.

“I thought it was too cold in the mountains to have ticks,” she said.

Although Colorado has fewer ticks than other states, Colorado is known to have viral and disease carrying species. The virus Colorado Tick Fever, for example, can be contracted by humans and can have effects five times worse than the common flu. Some human diseases in the United States caused by tick-borne pathogens include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and tick-borne relapsing fever.

By Wednesday, the German shepherd Diane was at home with her “partner in crime,” a yellow Labrador named Jack.

She was already returning to her old self.

After Brooks thoroughly removed the tick from her just a day before, the paralysis had disappeared in three to four hours.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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