Ticks are a common spring-time parasite in Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky. In the rural, surrounding country side we see many pets come in with ticks starting as early as March (again, due to our mild winter). Frontline Plus, Certifect, and Advantage Multi are all products we highly recommend if you have ticks in your area. The following handout I am posting today is one I wrote about a year ago outlining the common “tick born” diseases we see here and in the surrounding states.
Common Tick Borne Diseases
What is Lyme Disease? Lyme disease is caused by bacteria and can attack many systems in your pet’s body. Lyme disease is regularly carried by the deer tick. Common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include joint pain and fever. These symptoms usually don’t develop for two to five months after being bitten. In the United States, more than 90% of the Lyme cases occur in the Northeast and North Central states. Lyme disease is a perplexing condition because it can present itself in so many different ways. No two cases are alike and the wide variety of symptoms that Lyme can produce can be confused with many other dog diseases. Because of this, it is sometimes called the Great Pretender.
What is Ehrlichiosis? Ehrlichiosis is a disease found in domestic dogs and wild canids (e.g. wolves). The disease is transferred by an immature Brown Dog Tick or Lone Star Tick biting an infected dog then moving on and biting an uninfected dog. Symptoms of acute infection include enlarged lymph nodes, spleen and liver. Anemia, fever, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joint pain and stiffness, and bruises are often seen. Treatment is usually for 3-4 weeks, even though the dog's symptoms generally improve after several days of therapy. Some dogs will need blood transfusions or intravenous fluids depending on the severity of the disease. Generally, the prognosis during the acute phase is good, if the animal is properly treated. Dogs that go on to the chronic phase have a poorer prognosis. German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers tend to have a more severe chronic form of the disease.
What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a disease transmitted by ticks and is most prevalent in the east coast, Midwest, and plains regions. Rocky Mountain spotted fever affects dogs and humans. Through blood tests, it has been demonstrated that cats may also become infected, but the disease in cats is minimal. The disease is spread from infected animal to animal by the American Dog Tick and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Tick. The tick must be attached to a host for a minimum of 5-20 hours for transmission to occur. There are many symptoms of the disease, some of which include anemia, vomiting, depression, pain in the muscles and joints, pneumonia, dizziness, seizures, hemorrhages in the retina of eye and renal failure can occur.
What is Tick Paralysis? Tick paralysis is the only tick-borne disease that is not caused by an infectious organism. The illness is caused by a neurotoxin produced in the tick's salivary gland. After prolonged attachment, the engorged tick transmits the toxin to its host. The toxin causes symptoms within 2-7 days, beginning with weakness in both legs that progress to paralysis. The paralysis ascends to trunk, arms, and head within hours and may lead to respiratory failure and death. The two ticks most commonly associated with North American tick paralysis are the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick. Tick paralysis is chemically induced by the tick and therefore usually only continues in its presence. Once the tick is removed, symptoms usually diminish rapidly. However, in some cases, profound paralysis can develop and even become fatal before anyone becomes aware of a tick's presence.
Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and tick paralysis can all affect humans as well as our furry companions. Take extreme caution when traveling in tick infested areas, which include forests and areas with thick under-brush.
The only prevention for these diseases in your pet is the use of a tick preventative. (Frontline Plus, Certifect, Activyl Tick Plus) If you have any questions regarding these diseases or preventatives don’t hesitate to ask the staff or doctors!