Tick-Borne Diseases and Your Dog.
We’ve had a few warm days of rain and with the snow melting my thoughts are turning to spring. That means that if you haven’t had your dog on year round flea and tick preventative (which we recommend) it’s time to start thinking about getting your dog started on it for the warm season.
You may think to yourself: Why do it? I’ve never seen a flea or tick on my dog! My answer is maybe you didn’t see it or maybe that’s true but you many not get that lucky next season. Flea and tick preventatives are an important part of your pets care. You may think of fleas and ticks only as a direct problem, causing biting, scratching and even infestations. However fleas and ticks have the potential to transmit of number of diseases to your pet!
Tapeworms: Fleas transmit the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum, which can cause weight loss in pets. You may notice small rice grain looking sections in the stool.
Lyme’s Disease: A disease of many animals and humans, Lyme’s disease is caused by the spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdoferi. Most animals will not have any symptoms but it can cause shifting leg lameness due to joint inflammation, anorexia, weight loss, lethargy, systemic inflammation, kidney disease, and rarely, heart disease. It takes 24 hours for the deer tick to transmit the disease so remove any ticks you see immediately. However, once infected, it may be weeks to months before signs of the disease are seen.
Anaplasmosis: Anaplasmosis is caused by single celled parasites that live within blood cells, either white blood cells or platelets, depending on the species of Anaplasma. The disease causes lameness, fever, loss of appetite and lethargy along with less commonly coughing, vomiting and diarrhea. One species of Anaplasma may also cause bleeding disorders due to loss of platelets.
Babesia: Babesia is caused by another intracellular, single celled organism, that lives in red blood cells. It is transmitted by the American and brown dog ticks. It causes anemia due to destruction of red blood cells and platelets and can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. Signs include fever, lethargy, pale gums, enlarged lymph nodes, weakness, jaundice, and vomiting. While some dogs can be treated as outpatients many require hospitalization and may need a blood or plasma transfusion.
Erlichia: This disease is transmitted by brown dog ticks and lone star ticks and caused by intracellular bacteria that live in white blood cells. While some dogs may not show symptoms, early stages of the disease show weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, limb swelling and difficulty breathing, while chronic or long term disease shows fever, severe weight loss, bleeding, joint pain, neurologic changes including seizures, bleeding, and kidney failure.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: RMSF is caused by a bacteria similar to Erlichia and is transmitted by the American dog tick and brown dog tick. Similar to other diseases it can cause fever, loss of appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, joint pain and bleeding along with neurologic signs.
Others: There are other diseases that occur outside of Wisconsin (such as hepatozoonosis) and others potentially in Wisconsin that we are just learning about. Keeping your dog free from ticks will help prevent these and other tick-borne diseases.
You have many options to choose from when it comes to flea and tick preventatives and which is best depends on your dog, its lifestyle, and whether you want a topical or an oral medication. There are too many to list here but below are a few we carry:
NexGuard: Top of the line monthly oral preventive made by the producers of Heartguard. Provides good protection and tastes similar so it is usually easy to give.
Vectra 3D: Topically applied monthly protection for fleas and ticks. Also acts as a repellent so prevents mosquito bites and ticks from latching on. Contains permethrin so very toxic to cats, cats need to be separated after application until it dries (usually overnight).
Simparica: Another oral monthly preventive, cheaper than Nexguard but may not have quite the same coverage in tick species. We are phasing it out in favor of NexGuard.
Frontline: Tried and true flea and tick topical preventive that has been on the market sometime. Many find it works well but there is resistance, especially in fleas, in certain geographic areas.
Revolution: Topical flea only preventive. Not recommended for outdoor dogs since it doesn’t protect against ticks. Great for mite infestations as a single dose.
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