Tick poisoning is a serious and potentially life threatening condition and the amount of treatment can vary depending on the individual case. Many pets will deteriorate for a day or more in spite of having the tick removed and treatment implemented. Clinical signs such as weakness in the legs, paralysis, voice changes, gagging, coughing, vomiting and difficulties breathing can persist or even worsen for several days after the initial treatment.
Your pet will be admitted into hospital and given a pre medication to help calm them and reduce salivary excretions. These medications will also minimize the risk of an adverse reaction to the tick anti-serum. Once these medications have had time to take effect an intravenous catheter is inserted into the foreleg and the tick antiserum is slowly injected. The tick antiserum aims to neutralise the tick toxin. Unfortunately there is always a potential risk of an adverse reaction to the antiserum. This is more common in cats than dogs, and more common in animals that have been treated multiple times. Such an adverse reaction can vary from a sudden drop in blood pressure which we can treat and correct through to rarely acute anaphylactic reaction resulting in death.
Whilst your pet is receiving the anti-serum their vital signs are monitored regularly. All cases are unique and different components of the disease can affect one case more than another (even in the same pet on subsequent episodes of tick poisoning). For example some animals may have more difficulty breathing but be able to walk, whilst others may be unable to walk at all but their breathing is only mildly affected. For this reason, treatment protocols vary, with some animals requiring intravenous fluids to maintain hydration and others requiring oxygen support to assist breathing. Many animals affected by tick poisoning also lose the ability to urinate and so need their bladders expressed manually, or are unable to blink and so need their eyes lubricated regularly.
Pneumonia is a possible life threatening complication of tick poisoning. Many affected animals vomit and since they often cannot swallow they may inhale the vomitus leading to aspiration pneumonia. Animals with aspiration pneumonia will require longer stays in hospital, intravenous fluids and intravenous antibiotics.
Finally if a tick has been missed and remains attached, it will continue to release toxin despite the administration of tick anti-serum. Regular tick searches and tick rinses are therefore conducted at the clinic and are crucial to a quicker recovery. Many animals with tick poisoning will need to be shaved to look for ticks. This also has the added benefit that after the animal goes home it will be easier to find subsequent ticks. Treatment for tick poisoning does not lead to the development of immunity from further ticks.
It is important that we have your current phone number as your pet’s condition can change very quickly and we may need to urgently contact you.
Some cases of tick poisoning are severe enough to require constant supervision overnight. If this is the case we will discuss it with you and explain the options available to provide this after hours care.
Due to the unpredictable nature of tick poisoning and the varying rates of recovery between different cases, there are some occasions where animals may need to stay in hospital longer than anticipated. Whilst most patients are in hospital approximately 2-4 days, some may need up to 2 weeks of hospitalisation. We will try and send your pet home as soon as possible.
The costs involved in treating tick poisoning are often considerable and can escalate above what was originally anticipated if pets recover slowly or develop complications. The size of the patient, the degree of severity of poisoning (both of which affect the volume of anti-serum required), the age of the patient and any pre-existing medical conditions can affect the rate of recovery and add to the costs involved. Please feel free to discuss these costs with us while your pet is hospitalised.