As seen on episode 5 – Bondi Vet: Coast To Coast         

Suspecting a deadly paralysis tick, Boston was quickly rushed into Animal Emergency Service by worried owners Rebecca and Wade. By the time he arrived, the poor German Shepherd was completely paralysed from tip to tail.

The distressed four-year-old pup was quickly checked by Dr Alex Hynes and Dr Gerardo Poli, while they discussed the circumstances of Boston’s arrival. Rebecca and Wade had been away overnight and had come home that morning to find Boston unable to walk. As Alex and Gerardo looked over Boston, they were concerned about how laboured his breathing was. The veterinarians quickly began the search for a suspected paralysis tick – a difficult process given the German Shepherd breed is well-known and loved for their long thick furry coat.

Paralysis ticks are no more than a few millimetres in size, making them tricky to find, and as time passes it becomes increasingly important to locate and remove them as soon as possible. Unbelievably, after almost no time at all, Dr Alex located the nasty tick on the base of Boston’s neck – alive and moving, having a big feed on poor Boston. With a quick twist, Alex removed the tick and held it up for the team to review. Sad news for Boston, it was a deadly paralysis tick.

The veterinarians quickly worked to discuss a plan for Boston’s treatment. It was feared he may need to be sedated in order to take over his airways, as he struggled to breathe freely on his own. He also required life-saving anti-serum. Rebecca and Wade were brought in to say a tearful goodnight to Boston who wasn’t anywhere near well enough to go home with them. It was looking like a long and strenuous fight for Boston, as the toxin released by the paralysis tick had made its way through Boston’s body causing severe paralysis.

Rebecca and Wade shared how much they love Boston, being such a crucial part of their family. Despite their young daughter Harlow jumping all over him, he always remained so gentle and loving with her. Boston meant everything to his family, and Dr Alex was prepared to help in any way she could to return him home to them.

With the family having left, Dr Alex’s attention turned to clipping Boston’s fur to ensure there were no more ticks to be concerned with. However, after such a huge night and taking into account his paralysis and struggle to breathe, Dr Alex knew that Boston would need rest before she continued treatment. After successfully sedating Boston, she administered the life-saving anti-serum and inserted a nasal line to ensure his oxygen levels would stabilise.

The following evening, Boston’s oxygen levels had dropped to dangerously low levels, presenting a whole new challenge for the poor pup. Thinking of the family back at home, Dr Alex knew Boston’s only chance for survival rested with her and the team. As he worsened, Dr Gerardo also grew deeply concerned about his condition. The antiserum worked to mop up the toxins in his blood system, but the toxin had bound to Boston’s nerves, which required intensive care.

Fortunately, the team were able to successfully intubate Boston and provide him with a second nasal line, drastically increasing his supply of oxygen. But with the fight for his life continuing to worsen, the team performed an urgent x-ray to examine his lungs. The x-ray shows the worst outcome possible – Boston had developed pneumonia and needed to be transferred urgently to Pet ICU, where he would receive round-the-clock monitoring and care by vets and nurses.

Pet ICU Veterinarian, Dr Elise Lenske, and Vet Nurse Natalie had the huge task of shaving Boston. As he was continuing to deteriorate, Dr Alex and Dr Gerardo suspected another tick may be to blame. Having completed the shave and performed a thorough tick search, Dr Elise thankfully came up empty-handed, and the team could now focus on Boston’s recovery from severe pneumonia.

Dr Elise makes the call to keep the owners, Wade and Rebecca, away from Boston – in such a critical condition, any overexcitement can worsen the effects of the toxin in his body, and at this point, the German Shepherd was desperately fighting for his life.

After two days in intensive care, the paralysis began to wear off and Boston appeared more alert but still had trouble breathing. Dr Alex slowly began introducing Boston to walking again and could not hide her excitement when he urinated on the floor in front of her! For the last two days, the emergency vet had placed a catheter into Boston’s bladder to help him pass bodily waste; but Boston no longer required help to pass urine. The goal post shifted: it was now time to get Boston breathing on his own again.

After one week in intensive care, and with many emergency vets and nurses taking care of Boston, he was finally able to return home. The entire family, including little Harlow, returned to Animal Emergency Service to see Boston for the first time all week. After the clipping, Boston’s beautiful long-haired coat was nowhere to be seen, but the German Shepherd was just the same inside as he had always been – excited and happy to be reunited with his loving family.

As tick season can stretch out all year round in Queensland, Boston’s story is an important reminder to keep pets up to date with regular parasite prevention treatment. Read more about paralysis ticks, including symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

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