Ticks and Tick Borne Diseases: A Primer
Ah, the sweet smell of spring! We’re sure you can’t wait for backyard barbecues, camping and hiking trips, and simply playing outside with your dog. However, the warm weather brings with it a danger to our pets: ticks and tick borne diseases.
Ticks can survive the winter just fine indoors – even in your garage – so it’s important to prevent these pests year round. With that in mind, the team at New Haven Pet Hospital wants to arm you with helpful information to combat ticks and tick borne diseases.
The tick is not an insect but an arachnid closely related to a spider. Ticks can be found in every U.S. state and are most active in the spring and fall. In general, they prefer dark, moist, brushy places in which to lay their eggs, but they also commonly “quest” for hosts in tall grasses and shrubs.
Tick bites are painful and irritating, but the real danger lies in the tick borne diseases they transmit. These diseases can cause serious issues in both pets and people and are often difficult to diagnose.
Tick Borne Diseases
There are several tick borne diseases that ticks can and do transmit. Of these, many are difficult to diagnose because the signs mimic those of other diseases. Signs may also appear to resolve, only to reoccur within weeks or months. To make matters worse, many signs do not begin to show until months or even years after a tick bite.
Luckily, our in house laboratory is equipped with tick disease testing. These tests, coupled with an accurate history of your dog’s whereabouts and lifestyle, can give us a precise diagnosis. Tick borne diseases include:
- Lyme disease – Transmitted by the deer tick and the Western black legged tick, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease can result in stiffness, joint pain, loss of appetite, fever, and fatigue. Signs may not appear until months after a tick bite.
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever – Despite its name, this disease is found throughout North America. This infection can cause fever, skin lesions, stiffness, and neurological problems, and it may be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated quickly.
- Ehrlichiosis – Canine ehrlichiosis is caused by the brown dog tick and has different forms that are often specific to different U.S. regions. Signs include fever, loss of appetite, swollen limbs, nose bleeds, and weight loss.
- Babesiosis – This tick borne disease causes anemia and is transmitted by the brown dog tick and the American dog tick. Pale gums, weakness, and vomiting may also be seen.
- Anaplasmosis – Also called “dog tick fever,” anaplasmosis is transmitted by a deer tick that has previously bitten a host animal, such as a deer or a rodent. Signs are similar to other tick borne diseases but may also include vomiting, diarrhea, and, in extreme cases, seizures.
How do I Prevent Ticks?
There are many safe, effective, and easy-to-administer tick preventives. Monthly products are usually applied topically at the base of the neck or between the shoulder blades.
Another form of prevention involves keeping your pet out of tick habitats. This can be difficult if you have a field dog or if you hike regularly with your dog in wooded areas. Keeping your yard as clean as possible can also go a long way to preventing a tick infestation.
Lastly, do a “tick check” whenever you and your dog come in from an outdoor adventure (even in your yard). Finding ticks early is important since many diseases can’t be transmitted until the tick has been attached to your dog for a certain period of time. Ask us how to remove ticks safely or purchase a tick removal tool from us. Never use a burning match or other such methods touted on the internet. Many are simply unsafe!
Whether you need an appointment for disease testing, a lesson in tick removal, or if you’d like to schedule a wellness exam to update your pet’s tick preventive, please give us a call. We’re here to help!