Archive for May, 2012

Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases

May 16, 2012

Ticks promise to be in large numbers this year, according to parasitologists. The mild winter we just had, combined with our record population of deer, the natural host of many tick species, provides the nearly ideal environment for ticks to multiply.

Ticks can transmit a number of diseases which can affect pets, as well as people. Among these are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia and Anaplasmosis. Symptoms for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever usually show up within days of a tick bite, but most other tick-borne illnesses may not manifest for days or weeks. Also, many tick stages are so small they may go unnoticed, particularly in a thick-coated outdoor dog. Thus, diagnosing a tick-borne illness can be difficult, especially when ticks may go unnoticed. 

The best way to avoid tick-borne illness in pets and people is prevention. For people, apply repellents such as DEET before venturing into woods, tall grass, or brushy areas. Also, inspect yourself and family members carefully after such an outing. Remember, DEET cannot be used on pets.

 To protect pets, clear away brush, weeds and tall grass. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not drop from trees. Rather, they climb to the top of a blade of grass or other plant, and wait for a potential host to brush against them.

Finally, regularly use commercial topical tick control products such as Advantix or Preventic collars. Pay close attention to the label-size matters! And some products can not be used on cats.

One interesting side note on the topical tick control products: Many work by hyperstimulating the ticks nervous system. They detach and begin to crawl rapidly. I have received a number of calls from clients who claimed that they saw a few ticks, applied a topical product, and now see “ticks crawling everywhere.” That means the product is working! Within a few hours those ticks will be dead.

Don’t wait until you see ticks to begin prevention. Apply products now and continue year-round. Our mild winters do not adequately kill off ticks and allow us to stop prevention, especially on outdoor pets.

Signs of a tick-borne illness may include, fever, lethargy,muscle and joint pain, bruising, nose-bleed, or other unexplained hemorrhage. If you suspect a tick-borne illness, or see any of those symptoms, please call for an appointment.

When attempting to remove a tick, grasp close to the skin with tweezers. Wear gloves and wash the area with soap and water afterwards. If a large number of ticks are attached to your pet, call for an appointment.

Do not apply vaseline, nail polish or use a lit or unlit match. These do not work, and may cause the tick to deposit more disease-carrying saliva.

Please call our office if you have any questions about ticks or any other pet-related questions.

Randal Burris, DVM