Tick Paralysis in Cats — Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Tick Paralysis in Cats

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What are Tick Paralysis?

When a tick bites your cat it will usually stay attached and continue feeding on your feline’s blood until it becomes engorged. A tick that has fed will appear as a lump on your cat’s skin, and may look like a large skin tag.

If your pet has recently been bitten by a tick, watch for any signs of illness, from a fever to an inability for to move the back legs. If something appears wrong, it is important to get the cat to a veterinarian immediately.

Tick paralysis is a condition that occurs when a cat is bitten by a type of tick that produces a paralysis-causing toxin. Of the several hundred tick species found worldwide, there approximately 40 have this ability. It is important to protect your cat from tick bites if you live in an area that is known to be home to any tick species. There are different symptoms for each illness that can be caused by tick bites, but a bite from a paralysis tick can literally cause paralysis in cats and other animals.

Symptoms of Tick Paralysis in Cats

If your cat has been bitten by a tick that can cause paralysis you will notice some visible symptoms that something is wrong. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness in limbs
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Poor reflexes
  • Muscle paralysis
  • Vocal issues
  • Excessive drooling
  • Trouble eating

Causes of Tick Paralysis in Cats

The singular cause of tick paralysis for cats is the bite of a tick that releases a toxin into the cat’s bloodstream. Not all ticks produce toxins that cause paralysis. Australia and North America are the places most likely to be home to paralysis ticks. These ticks are generally carried by another animal, and then find their way onto your pet when they pass through the same areas

In North America, the two most common ticks that cause paralysis are the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick.

Diagnosis of Tick Paralysis in Cats

If you find a tick on your cat, remove it with tweezers, grabbing it close to the head to be sure you remove all of its mouth parts. If your cat begins to show any signs of illness, get it to the doctor immediately. If possible, store the removed tick in a jar to take with you to the vet for identification.

Even after removal, your veterinarian should be able to tell where the tick bit your cat. Blood and urine tests will help your doctor determine the effects of the bite and rule out other illnesses. If they find a tick on your cat during examination they can remove it and send it to a lab for analysis.

Treatment of Tick Paralysis in Cats

If ticks are found, the first step in treatment will be to remove them. Whether or not ticks were found, or just signs of them, your cat will require an insecticidal bath that will kill any that may not have been found. If your cat is having a severe reaction it will need to be hospitalized for treatment. This could include medical care, respiratory care, and the administration of intravenous fluids.

Even with treatment, your cat is still at risk. These four typical stages of paralysis can indicate the severity and progression of the cat’s condition:

  1. Problems walking, wobbly on the feet, and change in voice and eating habits
  2. Vomiting and an inability to move the back feet
  3. Inability to sit or lay on the side, difficulty breathing
  4. Signs of respiratory failure

If the cat has experienced all four stages of paralysis, it’s chance of recovery may be diminished. Older, weaker cats may also have a less optimistic prognosis than healthy, young cats affected by a paralysis tick bite.

Recovery of Tick Paralysis in Cats

Upon returning home, keep your cat them in a cool environment. The toxins from the paralysis tick work with warm and humid air, so keeping the cat cool can minimize effects. Also, prevent the cat exerting a lot of energy. If your cat has problems eating or can’t hold down food, your doctor will recommend ways to keep your cat nourished.

It is important to continue watching for ticks on your cat, especially after any trips outside. Even with medications for tick protection, your cat still runs the risk of a tick bite if they spend time outdoors.

Tick Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

We noticed our cat was making a strange noise. It was a bit like a combination of purring and growling. We had removed a tick the day before. Our cat seemed otherwise fine. We decided to take our cat to the vet as a precaution. Lucky we did!

The vet advised that the sound he was making was characteristic of a reaction to a paralysis tick. It impacts their nervous system and effects their breathing. She said that while his balance seemed okay when he was on the floor he had difficulty jumping.

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He was kept in overnight and given anti-tick serum. Apparently this needs to be given over time because it’s based on dogs’ blood and it can be dangerous for them to have it all at once. They also recommended that his fur be clipped to make sure he didn’t have any other ticks because that would counteract the serum. He was sedated for the clipping.

We were advised to pick him up early the next day as he was not eating or urinating and they advised that this was a sign that he was distressed. He ate and did an impressive show of emptying his bladder as soon as we got him home. We were told that we needed to keep him quiet for two weeks following the treatment because exertion might (in rare cases) trigger heart failure. It’s been two weeks and he seems fine but he is now sneezing on a fairly regular basis throughout the day. He’s otherwise fine. I’m wondering if the sneezing is also about his respiratory system being effected and whether or not it’s permanent. I’m hoping he didn’t pick up something else while he was at the vet hospital.


How To Treat Tick Bites On Cats

Cats do an excellent job of self grooming and keep most parasites out of their coats. However, occasionally, your pet may come across a tick which it cannot remove on its own. If you are wondering how ticks affect cats, read on: we have all the information you need.

What do ticks do to cats?

Ticks are tiny parasites that feed on blood of mammals, especially domesticated animals like dogs and cats. Tick bites can cause irritation to the skin around which the pet has been bitten. Your cat will scratch its skin vigorously or shake its head to deter ticks on its head/face. In extreme cases, and especially in very young kittens and older cats, tick bites could cause anemia or paralysis. You might also feel a cat-tick-bite lump on the skin where the tick has injected its pincers into the cat’s fur and skin for drawing out its blood. In rare cases, ticks on cats can cause Lyme disease or other serious diseases characterized by fever, appetite loss, lethargy, depression and chronic joint aches.

lone star tick

In the United States, the most common cat tick is the lone star tick. The adult and nymph of this species are active in late spring while the larvae appear in late summer. This tick is an important vector of diseases like ehrlichiosis and Tularemia in domestic cats.

Female ticks lay up to 5000 eggs on their host and its environment. Adult ticks, both males and females, feed on the cat, engorge and mate. Male ticks usually die after mating while females live up to laying eggs in protected areas on the ground.

How do ticks get on your cat?

Ticks usually lie in wait for hosts in tall grasses and shrubs. They quickly get stuck to the cat’s body as soon as it brushes past them. Ticks cannot fly but they can crawl fairly rapidly, several feet at a time, to reach their host.

What can you do to prevent ticks from getting attached to your cat’s body?

You can buy commercially available tick repellent products to use on your pets. They include sprays, powders, spot treatments and tick collars. You will need to bathe the cat well with an anti-tick shampoo prior to using these products. Bathing will kill the ticks and larvae present on the cat’s body. Thereafter, you can use tick collars, oral medicines or spot treatment drops to repel ticks from biting your pet. You will need to treat all your pets in this manner in order to prevent re-infestation. Never use tick products made for dogs on your cat as some of them could cause serious toxicity to the felines.

You will also need to clean the cat’s environment thoroughly. Vacuuming the carpets and rugs can help eliminate eggs, adults and nymphs to prevent them from getting back on the cat. Continue to monitor the tick presence on the cat as well. If you are still seeing ticks on its body, you must bathe the cat again and re-treat it with oral or topical tick medicine after couple of weeks. Most tick products are effective for a few weeks up to a month; so re-treat the animal accordingly.

You will also need to treat your yard for ticks. Mow the lawn to keep the grass blades short. Eliminate clutter and hiding areas for ticks. Prevent wild animals from harboring in your yard by removing debris, wood piles, etc.

Remember that indoor cats are also not safe from ticks: they may still get ticks from other animals or even from cat ticks on humans.

Ticks on cats: Removal tips

If you see a tick on your cat, remove it using a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly with the tweezers close to the surface of the skin and pull it out upwards, vertically. Do not squeeze the tick as this could cause infected blood to come out. Wash your hands immediately after removing the tick. You can bag the tick for identification. Apply disinfectant medicine on the site of the bite.

Ticks on cats: Treatment

If your cat has a lump following the tick bite, gently apply some Neosporin ointment on it. Observe the cat for a few days for signs of fever, lethargy etc. Also inspect the cat’s body for other ticks. Visit the vet in case of a heavy infestation.


If you have seen a tick attached to your cat, do not panic. Very rarely do cats acquire Lyme or other tick-borne diseases. Also, very few ticks actually carry such disease-causing organisms. That said; you should proactively treat all your pets with tick and flea preventive products approved by the vet. This will give you peace of mind and keep your cat healthy all year round.


5 Cat Bite Infection Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

All cat bites, from little nips to deep punctures, can result in swelling and other symptoms. Learn how to spot the signs of a cat bite infections so you know when it’s time to get medical help.

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Symptoms of Possible Complications of Cat Bites

Although both dog and cat saliva contain many types of bacteria, a person is more likely to get an infection from a cat bite than a dog bite. Cats’ teeth are sharper and longer than their canine counterparts. Cat bites generally produce small, deep puncture wounds that are difficult to clean. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, all cat bites should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible due to the high risk of infection. While mild infections cause slight discomfort, serious ones can be life-threatening.

Infection from Cat Bites

Health Guide Info warns a cat bite infection can develop within 24 to 48 hours of being bitten. Common signs of infection include:

  • Redness: One of the first signs your bite may be getting infected is redness around the wound. This can vary from light pink to a dark, angry-looking crimson red. If the area is getting red, watch for any spreading of redness outward to the rest of the body. Spreading of redness could indicate blood poisoning.
  • Heat: Whether or not the bite begins to redden, check it often to make sure it is not warmer than the other parts of your body. As your body sends antibodies to fight infection, the temperature around the infected area may heat up even before the area turns red.
  • Odor: Some bites develop an unusual odor. It may be difficult to detect at first, but the wound may smell if untreated.
  • Pusor oozing: An infected bite can abscess and puff up with a growth that looks like a pimple or boil. The growth will eventually pop and drain, but a doctor should examine the wound.
  • Fever: This may develop if an infection is left untreated too long.

Health Guide Info lists headache, fatigue, low blood pressure and rapid heartbeat as additional symptoms of infection. Treatment generally consists of antibiotics and possibly a tetanus shot.

Cat-Scratch Fever

Transmitted by a scratch or bite, cat-scratch fever, also known as cat-scratch disease, is generally not serious in people with healthy immune systems. However, see your doctor if you develop symptoms. If you suffer from a compromised immune system due to an existing medical condition, you must seek medical attention if a cat bites you.

According to MedicineNet.com, symptoms include:

  • A blister or small bump (swelling) forming at the site of the bite
  • Tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

Cat-scratch fever symptoms typically occur three to thirty days after the bite, with most cases developing in the first one to two weeks. Your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics. The illness usually lasts two to four months, but may last up to a year.

Treating a Cat Bite

According to Family Doctor, you can lower the chance of infection from a cat bite by taking these steps right away:

  • Wash your hands, or put on rubber gloves before beginning treatment.
  • If the bite is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean, dry cloth. Continue applying pressure until the bleeding stops.
  • If the bite is not bleeding or is bleeding slightly, wash the area for several minutes with antibacterial soap and water. Use running water if possible.
  • Rinse the wound thoroughly.
  • Sterilize the area with Betadine, or soak it in a solution of peroxide or Epsom salts and warm water.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment or cream, coating the area.
  • Cover the bite with a sterile dressing.
  • Watch the bite area over the next two days for any signs of infection.

Take Every Cat Bite Seriously

Never make the mistake of ignoring a bite wound. Clean it properly and call your family doctor about having the bite examined. Getting bitten by a cat is a fairly common occurrence, but you still need to protect your health.


Phone Numbers

Routine and Emergency Care

Companion Animal Hospital in Ithaca, NY for cats, dogs, exotics, and wildlife

Equine and Nemo Farm Animal Hospitals in Ithaca, NY for horses and farm animals

Ambulatory and Production Medicine for service on farms within 30 miles of Ithaca, NY

Animal Health Diagnostic Center New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

General Information


Cornell Feline Health Center

Supporting Cat Health with Information and Health Studies.

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Feline Health Topics

Ticks and Your Cat

Suggested Articles

Found a tick on your cat? You can help by participating in our feline tick study!

Stiff and swollen joints, lethargy, diminished appetite, and fever are among the salient clinical signs of countless feline health disorders. In the warmer months of the year, these signs may indicate that a cat has been bitten by a tick—or a whole lot of ticks—and is in the throes of a serious illness calling for prompt veterinary treatment.

Ticks bite their hosts because they need to feed on an animal’s blood in order to move through the various phases of their development, from the larval stage to adulthood. Larvae need blood nourishment in order to develop into young ticks (nymphs); the nymphs need it in order to mature into adulthood; and the adult female needs to ingest blood in order to mate and lay the thousands of eggs that will eventually develop into a new generation of larvae. It is in their nymph and adult stages, explains William Miller Jr., VMD, a professor of dermatology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, that a tick will crawl onto a cat’s body, attach itself, and start to feed on the animal’s blood. If the tick is carrying an infectious agent, the pathogens will enter the cat’s circulatory system and begin to reproduce rapidly.

Well over 800 species of ticks have been identified worldwide, although only a dozen or so are associated with significant feline disease. Most notorious among tick-borne disorders—although not the most consequential in terms of potential impact on the feline population—is Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that, if treatment for it is delayed, can lead to extensive joint damage, cardiac complications, kidney failure, and neurologic dysfunction. Fortunately, cats are highly resistant to the bacteria causing Lyme disease and rarely show signs of the disease.

A number of other tick-transmitted illnesses that are observed in the United States carry prognoses that are more threatening than Lyme disease. Among the more notable, and potentially lethal, are the relatively common hemobartonellosis and the much rarer cytauxzoonosis, as well as tularemia. Hemobartonellosis is caused by a bacterial parasite that invades a cat’s red blood cells and fosters development of severe, life-threatening anemia, signs of which are pale gums, lethargy, inappetance and rapid or open mouth breathing. Cytauxzoonosis results from infection by a one-celled protozoan parasite that causes severe anemia, fever, lethargy, and breathing difficulties and is usually fatal. Tularemia, a comparatively uncommon but deadly bacterial infection results in fever, lymph node enlargement and abscess formation. In addition to the diseases noted above, other rare tick-borne disorders—such as ehrlichiosis, and babeseosis, —can affect cats and may cause fever, anemia, lethargy, and inappetance or weight loss.

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If any of these clinical signs are observed, Dr. Miller advises, they should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian without delay. In some cases—tularemia and cytauxzoonosis, for example—the prognosis will not be promising; infected cats are likely to die from the infection. On the other hand, antibiotics—such as tetracycline and doxycycline,—are apt to be effective in countering other tick-borne diseases, especially if they are diagnosed at an early stage.

A variety of topical medications that are effective in thwarting feline tick infestations are commercially available, as are tick collars that may succeed in keeping the parasites from invading a cat’s coat. Because topical medications and tick collars contain potent chemicals which cats can be exquisitely sensitive to, none should be used on a cat without the specific recommendation of a veterinarian.

Especially during the warmer months of the year, says Dr. Miller, an owner should routinely brush a cat’s coat and search for signs of tick infestation. “If you spot an attached tick,” he says, “remove it with forceps or tweezers. Reach below the tick’s body, grab it close to the head where the tick is attached to the skin, and apply steady traction to pull it out. You want to be sure to get the whole thing. And if it’s a female, there will be eggs inside the body, and you want to get rid of them in a safe manner.” This can be achieved, he notes, by dropping the egg-filled tick into a bottle of alcohol and tightly sealing it. Ticks can transmit diseases to humans, so be sure to wear gloves, avoid touching the tick with bare skin, and wash your hands after disposing of the tick. For additional advice and a video on removing ticks, see the American Lyme Disease Foundation’s website. Above all, don’t panic if you find a tick on your cat. The vast majority of ticks don’t carry diseases and only rarely are cats affected by tick-borne illnesses.


How to Tell if a Pet has a Spider Bite

If you’re a pet owner, chances are that you’re familiar with fleas and ticks and how to get rid of them off your pet, but do you know how to deal with spider bites? These insect bites an be difficult to diagnose with certainty, as they often resemble insect bites, bacterial infections or injuries.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, pet owners should monitor their pets for symptoms, such as severe muscle cramps, pain, disorientation or partial paralysis, which are commonly associated with dangerous spider bites. Most spiders are harmless, but consult your veterinarian anytime you suspect your pet has sustained a bite, as the venom of some species can cause serious illness or death.

Widow Spiders

Five different widow spiders inhabit to the United States, including three different black widow species, one brown widow species and the red widow, www.livescience.com=»» 22122-types-of-spiders.html»=»»> according to Live Science. The three black widow species are the most medically significant; although small differences between the three species exist, they are all inky-black spiders with bright red abdominal markings, sometimes resembling an hourglass.

Bug Guide reports that black widows are common in woodpiles and outdoor buildings, and under logs, rocks or debris, so be wary of letting your dog roam in areas dusty or cobwebbed areas like these. Black widow venom acts fast and can be fatal to your pet, so you should call your veterinarian immediately to have your pet taken to emergency care if you suspect it is a black widow bite.

Brown Recluses

Research at University of California Riverside concludes that the United States is home to six to 10 different recluse species, all of which belong to the genus Loxosceles. Brown recluse spiders are most common in the Midwestern states, as far north as southern Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio, but they also inhabit the Southern states, from Florida to California.

True to their name, brown recluses are secretive, nonaggressive spiders who often live in basements, tunnels and woodpiles. Laypersons regularly misidentify small, brown spiders as brown recluses, based on the observation of a violin-shape marking on their back. To accurately identify a brown recluse, the Merck Veterinary Manual advises you observe the spider has unmarked legs with no hairs or spines, an unmarked abdomen and — most importantly — six eyes, arranged in three pairs.

The experts at Vetary note that while the brown recluse bites look painful, and your pet may experience itching and redness, these symptoms should go away within four days. If they persist, you should take your pet to the vet.

Initial Spider Bite Symptoms

The symptoms caused by spider bites vary widely from one bite to the next, and individual pets respond differently to their venoms. Pet Education describes the first symptoms in dogs and cats commonly experience redness, inflammation, swelling, hair loss or discoloration at the bite site — but many times, bites go unnoticed until systemic symptoms arise. Some of these systemic symptoms include anxiety, muscle weakness, partial paralysis, disorientation and seizures. Dogs and cats often suffer from debilitating muscle cramps after black widow envenomation. Cats are particularly susceptible to black widow venom, and they often begin to drool and exhibit paralysis after suffering a bite. Symptoms progress rapidly.


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