Ollie, a 10-year-old sheltie in Portland, Oregon, was moments from being euthanized when Dr. Adam Stone, a 2005 Bangor High School graduate, remembered learning about tick paralysis in veterinary school.
The rare disease would explain why the dog became lethargic, then almost completely paralyzed and unable to eat or go to the bathroom on his own, about a week after Ollie’s owners returned from a camping trip. Less than 12 hours after the tick was removed, Ollie was home and close to being his normal self again.
Stone, 28, was working the overnight shift at DoveLewis , a nonprofit, 24-hour animal hospital in Portland, Oregon, when Ollie was brought in by his owners on May 4. Al and Joelle Meteney had exhausted their funds for the dog’s medical treatment in an attempt to diagnose Ollie’s illness.
They brought the dog to DoveLewis because it offers euthanasia service free for seriously ill pets with no hope of recovery, Stone said Thursday in a telephone interview.
“Neena Golden, a veterinary student doing an externship, was comforting the dog,” he said. “She rubbed her hand behind his ear and felt a lump in his coat. It was a tick that was engorged and had made a little home back behind one of his ears.”
Tick paralysis is an acute, progressive, symmetrical, ascending motor paralysis caused by salivary neurotoxin produced by certain species of ticks, according to information posted on the website of the Merck Veterinary Manual.
“People (usually children) and a wide variety of other mammals, birds, and reptiles may be affected,” according to information posted on the website.
The tick removed from Ollie was a dog tick, but deer ticks also can cause paralysis. Deer and dog ticks are common in Maine, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Lots of ticks bite, feed and fall off within one to three days,” Stone said. “To produce the neurotoxin that causes the paralysis, which is in the tick’s saliva, a lot of factors have to come together.
“The tick must be a female, and it must be in place for between five and 10 days before owners would see the effects,” he said. “Also, not all dogs that have ticks on them for a week become paralyzed. It’s a rare condition that can result in a painful death if not diagnosed.”
Dr. David Cloutier, the owner of Veazie Veterinary Clinic and mentor to Stone, said Thursday that the Maine clinic, where he has worked since 1992, has never treated a pet for tick paralysis.
Ollie has recovered completely and his coat slowly is growing back, according to information posted on DoveLewis’ website. In an effort to make sure the dog did not have any other ticks, his body was shaved.
“We gave him a lion cut, with a mane and a tail bob, but found no other ticks,” Stone said.
As the story was shared on Facebook, Stone’s Bangor roots were revealed.
Stone, who is the son of former Bangor city councilor and former state representative Richard Stone and his wife, Susan Stone, grew up in the Judson Heights section of Bangor. His interest in veterinary medicine stemmed from his passion for science.
“I was interested in human medicine while an undergraduate at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington,” he said. “After I started taking sustainability classes, I decided I owed it to the animals to take care of them.”
He graduated last year with a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia. Stone has been working since graduation as an intern at DoveLewis so he could get experience in emergency and acute care veterinary medicine.
“Next, I’d like to start my own business as a relief vet,” he said Thursday. “It will be nice to be in charge of my own schedule,” he said. “I’ve been in school a long time.”
Stone and Cloutier recommended pet owners regularly examine their pets for ticks and remove any they find. The veterinarians also recommended using more than one method of prevention such as a flea and tick collar and a pill. Ollie was wearing a flea and tick collar when he was infected, Stone said.
“Prevention is always less expensive than treatment,” Cloutier said.