Vet Intern Discovers Tick on Dog’s Ear Moments Before Euthanization

dog with tick paralysis

A 10-year-old dog named Ollie is alive today thanks to a Portland, Oregon-based DoveLewis Animal Hospital intern who found a tick hidden in his ear, moments before the veterinarian was to euthanise the sick dog.

Ollie’s owners, Al and Joelle, decided to put the dog to sleep after noticing his rapidly failing health after returning home from a trip to the Umpqua River, according to a statement from DoveLewis Animal Hospital.

“We were at a complete loss,” said Al, the dog’s owner. “What do you do in that situation? He is part of our family, and we’ve always tried to provide the best care we can for him.”

DoveLewis veterinarians had run a battery of tests on Ollie and were left with no answers as to what may have been causing his rapid decline.

Nearly a week after they’d returned from a camping trip, Al and Joelle said that Ollie was unable to eat and was almost completely paralyzed.

The dog was brought in to be put down.

DoveLewis intern Neena Golden was caressing Ollie, while Dr. Adam Stone was preparing for euthanization. It was then that she discovered the tick behind Ollie’s ear. The dog’s tick collar didn’t stop the bug from burying itself underneath Ollie’s fur, where it hid for days.

“The tick was very bloated, and there was lots of fecal material from the tick. It had obviously been there for a while,” Dr. Stone said.

Dr. Stone was eventually able to determine that Ollie’s sickness was caused by a very rare condition called tick paralysis.

“I had never seen a tick paralysis case,” Dr. Stone said. “It’s one of those things you learn about randomly in school – it’s on one slide during one presentation.”

Though completely curable, tick paralysis is caused when the tick’s saliva infects the host’s bloodstream. Prolonged effects can cause neurological problems and paralysis.

Hospital staff successfully removed that tick and cleared Ollie, giving him a full bill of health. Later that day, he was already back to his old self.

“We were astounded by the quick turnaround,” Al said.

“We were thinking it would take closer to three days for him to heal if it did turn out to be tick paralysis,” Golden said. “When we got the call from his owners that Ollie was doing fine, we all high-fived each other. That might be the one tick paralysis case I experience in my career. It was exciting that we could help.”

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @jeromeehudson