This is Ollie, a sheltie from Portland, Oregon, who was nearly euthanized until, at the last minute, a paralysis-inducing tick was discovered just behind his ear.
About a week after returning from a camping trip, Al and Joelle Meteney noticed 10-year-old Ollie was increasingly lethargic, weakening to the point where he could barely walk and only eat if hand fed.
However, a full range of tests, including blood work, urinalysis, and X-rays, by their regular veterinarian failed to reveal a possible cause.
“We were at a complete loss,” Al said in a blog post posted by DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital last week.
Soon, Ollie was almost completely paralyzed and unable to eat or go to the bathroom on his own. With no apparent treatment for Ollie's undiagnosed ailment, and his rapid deterioration, the Meteneys made the hard decision to have him put down at the animal hospital.
During a final exam, visiting vet student Neena Golden decided to comfort Ollie by scratching behind his ears, and that's when she discovered an engorged tick. Adam Stone, a licensed veterinarian who was interning that day, then diagnosed Ollie with tick paralysis.
"I had never seen a tick paralysis case," he said in the blog post. "It’s one of those things you learn about randomly in school – it’s on one slide during one presentation."
The paralysis occurs when the saliva of certain species of ticks gets into the dog’s system over a period of time, affecting the neurological system. In Ollie's case, the tick managed to attach itself despite the dog wearing a tick collar.
Removing the ticks can lead to complete recovery, as was the case with Ollie, who bounced back practically overnight.
“When we got the call from his owners that Ollie was doing fine, we all high-fived each other," Golden said. "That might be the one tick paralysis case I experience in my career. It was exciting that we could help.”
Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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