Tick Paralysis of Animals in Australia

  • A. M. Padula
Reference work entry
Part of the Toxinology book series (TOXI)


This review encompasses all aspects of tick paralysis relevant to animals in Australia. Tick paralysis is a major animal health problem along the east coast of Australia. Each year an estimated 10,000 dogs and cats are presented to veterinarians for treatment. Many other animal species have been documented to be affected with tick paralysis including horses, cattle, sheep, bats, and other native animals. Ixodes holocyclus and, to a lesser extent in southern Australia, Ixodes cornuatus are the causative tick species. Tick attachment to the host is usually followed by a latent period of 3–6 days during which time the tick engorges and salivary glands enlarge producing a neurotoxin. Paralysis signs are generally caused by the engorgement of one tick but less commonly multiple ticks can be found and occasionally no tick is found. Typical early clinical signs include hind limb ataxia which generally progresses to quadriplegia and death from respiratory failure. Atypical cases may present without generalized paralysis but with only facial paralysis, anisocoria, or gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and regurgitation may occur making diagnosis difficult. Unexplained actions of the tick toxin include cardiac effects which may contribute to pulmonary edema and ultimately respiratory compromise. The historically elusive molecular nature of the salivary gland secreted 5 kD protein neurotoxin has recently been described and the gene sequence determined. The principle therapeutic agent used in the treatment of affected animals is hyperimmune canine serum. Supportive care of severely affected animals appears important to improve survival outcomes. Response to treatment of early mildly paralyzed animals is good with over 90% of treated reported animals surviving. Animals presenting with severe respiratory compromise and quadriplegia have a poor survival prognosis despite intensive treatment. A range of preventative acaricides are currently available including new generation long-acting oral medications, topical liquids, and washes.


Tick paralysis Ixodes holocyclus Animal Antivenom Veterinary 



Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation




Holocyclotoxin 1


Immunoglobulin G


Immunoglobulin M












Lethal dose 50%






New South Wales




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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Venom Research Unit, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of Melbourne, ParkvilleMelbourneAustralia

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