Dogs, Ticks, Diseases and Prevention
Well, it’s that time of year again! Warm weather is prime tick time and disease carrying ticks are going to be plentiful and hungry. There are a number of diseases you need to be on the look out for. Prime examples are the following:
Transmitted by the deer tick and western black legged tick, the most common visible signs of Lyme disease infection are recurrent arthritis and lameness that lasts for three to four days, sometimes accompanied by loss of appetite and depression. Dog owners should be aware of these additional signs: reluctance to move or a stiff, painful gait; joints that are swollen and warm to the touch; pain in the legs or throughout the body; fever; fatigue; and swollen lymph nodes. Lyme disease signs may come and go, vary in intensity from mild to severe, and mimic numerous other conditions. Renal failure may occur in severe cases. In many dogs, the signs are not apparent or may not appear for several months after infection. Although Lyme disease has been found throughout the United States, infections are most frequently diagnosed in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central states, as well as California.
Canine Ehrlichiosis (E. canis)
Canine ehrlichiosis is commonly transmitted by the brown dog tick and can be found throughout the United States, but more frequently in the southwestern and Gulf Coast regions. Canine ehrlichiosis has three phases of symptoms – acute, subclinical and chronic. Dogs experiencing the acute phase may demonstrate symptoms that include fever, discharge from eyes and nose, lack of appetite, depression, weight loss and swollen lymph glands. The subclinical phase can last for years, and dogs may never show any obvious symptoms. The chronic phase can be either mild or severe. When mild, the disease appears to mimic a vague illness and dogs show signs of obvious weight loss. When severe, signs include eye disease, spontaneous nosebleeds, retinal bleeding and swelling of limbs. Severe cases that go undiagnosed and untreated can end in death.
Canine Anaplasmosis (Anaplasma phagocytophilum,
formerly Ehrlichia equi)
Sometimes referred to as dog fever, or dog tick fever, canine anaplasmosis is transmitted by the deer tick – the same tick that transmits Lyme disease. Canine anaplasmosis symptoms are often arthritis-like with multiple painful joints. Some canine anaplasmosis-infected dogs run a high fever, accompanied by lethargy, inappetence, vomiting and diarrhea. Neurological signs, while infrequent, may result in seizures and neck pain. Although minimal geographic data is currently available about the disease, its common host, the deer tick, can be found throughout the United States, primarily in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central states, as well as California.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is caused by the organism Rickettsia rickettsii, and is transmitted by the American dog tick or the wood tick. RMSF was first detected in dogs in the 1970s and, despite its name, RMSF is prevalent throughout most of the United States. In most cases, the disease lasts about two weeks, but in severe cases, can end in death. Symptoms include joint swelling and pain, as well as neurological abnormalities. Ocular lesions are also associated with RMSF and result from vasculitis and hemorrhage.
Source – Dogs and Ticks 101
There are numerous species of ticks throughout the world but the most common are the following;
Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) also referred to as a black-legged tick or bear tick
- Can transmit Lyme disease and canine anaplasmosis,
- Commonly found in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and upper midwestern states.
- If the deer tick is infected, it must be attached for 24-48 hours before it transmits Lyme disease, and at least 24 hours to transmit human anaplasmosis.
- Deer ticks live in wooded, brushy, humid areas.
Western Black Legged Tick (Ixodes Pacificus)
- Can transmit Lyme disease
- Commonly found in the western states and the Pacific US
- They are found in wooded areas along trails, north coastal scrub, high brush, and open grasslands
Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) also referred to as a kennel tick
- Can transmit canine ehrlichiosis
- Commonly found throughout the most of the US
- Unusual because it can complete its entire life cycle indoors and home infestations are not uncommon
- Found in grassy or wooded areas as well as kennels and can live indoors
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
- Can transmit canine ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and southern tick-associated rash
- Commonly found in the southern and southwestern states
- Found in wooded areas with brush, especially hickory-oak forests, along creeks and rivers
American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
- Can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Found in most states east of the Rocky Mountains, and parts of California, Idaho and Washington.
- Commonly found in wooded areas
Safety and Prevention
There is a wide variety of tick prevention medications on the market today such as shampoos, sprays and topical applications as well as collars and foggers.
Vets can vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease which is a good measure to take if you live in an area that could potentially be affected.
Dog owners should check their pets for ticks daily, especially during the spring, summer and fall months. Run your fingers firmly through their coats applying enough pressure to feel any little bumps. If a small lump is felt move the fur aside to identify the object. An embedded tick will vary in size, ranging from a pinhead to a grape. They are usually black or a dark brown. Depending upon the size and location of the tick, its legs are also sometimes visible. Ticks need to be embedded for 24-48 hours to spread infections.
To remove an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or special tick removal instruments. These special devices allow one to remove the tick without squeezing the tick body. This is important as you do not want to crush the tick and force harmful bacteria to leave the tick and enter your pet’s bloodstream.
- Grab the tick by the head or mouth parts right where they enter the skin. Do not grasp the tick by the body.
- Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. Do not twist the tick as you are pulling.
- Using methods such as applying petroleum jelly, a hot match, or alcohol will NOT cause the tick to ‘back out.’ In fact, these irritants may cause the tick to deposit more disease-carrying saliva in the wound.
- After removing the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Ticks are NOT killed by flushing them down the toilet.
- Clean the bite wound with a disinfectant. If you want to, apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment.
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
Please do not use your fingers to remove or dispose of the tick. We do not want you in contact with a potentially disease-carrying tick. Do NOT squash the tick with your fingers. The contents of the tick can transmit disease.
Once an embedded tick is manually removed, it is not uncommon for a welt and skin reaction to occur. Hydrocortizone spray, pads or salve will help alleviate the irritation, but it may take a week or more for healing to take place. In some cases, the tick bite may permanently scar leaving a hairless area. This skin irritation is due to a reaction to tick saliva. Do not be worried about the tick head staying in; it rarely happens. (Drs Foster & Smith)
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