Initial treatment is administering Tick Anti-Serum slowly via an intravenous catheter. This product is derived from the blood of a subpopulation of dogs that are naturally immune to the tick toxin. The anti-serum binds up the toxin circulating in the blood stream and prevents it from attaching to muscles and nerves. The anti-serum cannot affect the toxin that is already bound to tissue, but it is given to try to stop the progression of the disease. Over several days the toxin will unbind from tissue and be excreted from the body.
Other treatment involved is based on the severity of the paralysis. If the animal is vomiting or regurgitating and there is a concern about pneumonia developing, then antibiotics are started to manage infection. Medication to try to reduce vomiting and improve the activity of the oesophagus may be given as well. If there is paralysis of the eyelids then topical eye lubricants are applied to try to prevent ulceration of the corneas. Nursing care is critical in these cases; repositioning their body to avoid pressure sores while they are unable to move normally, applying eye lubrications, ensuring their bladder empties normally, monitoring and maintaining body temperature are all crucial in management of tick paralysis.
As their ability to swallow is weakened, no food or water is given by mouth until they are able to swallow normally. During this period, intravenous fluids are given to avoid dehydration. Some medications can be added to the fluids so they are administered continuously.
Tick paralysis patients are often kept sedated so they remain calm and keep their oxygen requirements low. Often these patients are stressed and scared and can panic very easily, causing their ability to breathe to suddenly worsen. In severe cases of paralysis where the respiratory muscles are affected, further treatment with oxygen therapy may be needed. This may be provided via an intra-nasal tube, but in some cases this may still not be enough. The paralysis results in the patient working harder for each breath, and they can become fatigued and exhausted and eventually stop breathing. If the respiratory paralysis is severe enough, then the patient may need to be on a ventilator to help them breathe. These cases must be referred to a 24-hour hospital, as they cannot be left unattended or unsupervised.
Treatment is continued until the clinical signs have disappeared and the animal is able to breathe without oxygen supplementation, swallow safely, urinate on their own, and walk without assistance. The recovery period varies between individuals and can be hard to predict. In-hospital treatment may be as short as 24 hours, but in severe cases can last a week or more.