The owners of a 10-year-old dog, Ollie the Sheltie, noticed that their dog was acting lethargic after a trip to the Umpqua River in Eastern Oregon. They took their dog to their vet for a bunch of tests, but veterinarians couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. “He still had a little sparkle in his eyes so he didn’t look really sick, he couldn’t really move… but you know, his expressions were still lively and responsive, his ears were still perking up. It was almost unreal,” Ollie’s owner Joelle Meteney said.
About a week after the trip, the dog was almost completely paralyzed and unable to eat or go to the bathroom. With veterinarians telling the Meteneys there was no sign of recovery, they decided to put Ollie down.
Extern Neena Golden took a moment to comfort Ollie prior to putting him down alongside Dr. Adam Stone. At that point, she felt a strange lump behind Ollie’s ear that turned out to be a tick. Even though Ollie had worn a tick collar during his trip to Eastern Oregon, the bug had managed to lodge itself in Ollie’s fur and stick around 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 then figured out Ollie’s sickness was a very rare condition he had learned about in vet school but had never seen out in the real world – tick paralysis. The saliva secreted by the tick got into Ollie’s system over a prolonged period of time, affecting his neurological system and causing paralysis. It’s completely curable.
Hospital staff removed the tick, and shaved most of Ollie’s fur to make sure no other creatures were hiding in his fur. About 10 hours later at their Portland home, Ollie’s owners heard their dog roaming around the house, ready to be let outside for a bathroom break. “We were astounded by the quick turnaround,” Ollie’s other owner Al said.
Ollie’s quick recovery even surprised the staff: “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.”
“His IV was in,” she said. “We were in the room, the IV was in, the doctor was coming in to do this. It was, you know, the very last second.”