Ollie, The Dog With Mysterious Illness Solved by Intern

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Ollie, a Sheltie from SE Portland, loves the outdoors. He gets excited every time he sees his owners, Al and Joelle, load the camping trailer. But a recent adventure to Umpqua River and Eastern Oregon left Ollie fighting for his life.

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About a week after returning from their trip, Al and Joelle Meteney noticed that Ollie was increasingly lethargic. He was very weak, finding it difficult to walk, and he would only eat when he was hand fed. Other than a bit of hip pain in prior years, this 10-year-old dog was previously healthy and active.

Al and Joelle didn’t wait long before taking Ollie to their regular veterinarian, who conducted a full range of tests, including blood work, a urinalysis, and a variety of X-rays. But they simply couldn’t find a reason for Ollie’s diminishing health. He was given medication that could potentially help, but Ollie only got worse the next day.

At this point, the pup was almost completely paralyzed and unable to eat or go to the bathroom on his own. Since there seemed to be no treatment to fix Ollie’s condition and his quality of life was rapidly deteriorating, Al and Joelle made the extremely difficult decision to put Ollie to sleep at DoveLewis.

“We were at a complete loss,” Al said. “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.”

Dr. Adam Stone was charged with Ollie’s end-of-life care, but he couldn’t help wondering why an otherwise perfectly healthy dog was experiencing paralysis. As he and extern Neena Golden were preparing for the procedure, Neena took a moment to comfort Ollie. She was scratching behind his ears and felt a strange lump in his thick fur. The lump turned out to be a tick. Even though Ollie was wearing a tick collar during his outdoor trip, the creature had still managed to lodge itself in Ollie’s fur.

“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.

Image A and B show the top and bottom view of the bloated tick found on Ollie. Image C is a sample of a regular sized tick.

He thought back to a rare condition he learned about in vet school – tick paralysis. “I had never seen a tick paralysis case. It’s one of those things you learn about randomly in school – it’s on one slide during one presentation.” It is so rare that only one other vet professional at DoveLewis had ever seen a tick paralysis case.

This condition occurs when the saliva secreted by the tick gets into the dog’s system over a prolonged period of time. It affects the dog’s neurological system and can cause paralysis. Only certain species of ticks can cause this damage, and removing the tick is completely curative.

Dr. Stone discussed this potential diagnosis with Al and Joelle. He told them that Ollie should show signs of improvement in three days, if this truly was the cause of his ailment. Hospital staff completely shaved Ollie’s body to be sure there were no additional ticks hiding in his fur and then sent him home to be monitored carefully.

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