A walk in the forest preserve is fun and healthy but bringing ticks home is not. During spring, summer and fall, it is important to protect ourselves and our pets from those blood sucking, biting arthropods.
Ticks are parasites that feed on blood. They embed in the skin and may suck relatively large amounts of blood. Ticks carry many agents of human and animal diseases and can directly cause tick paralysis. The most important tick-born diseases are Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Lyme disease affects mostly humans and dogs, but horses and cats may also get infected. It is characterized by fever and lameness, which can become chronic. Neurological, cardiac, kidney, and reproductive signs may also occur. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried mainly by the deer tick. During feeding the bacteria is injected into the body of the host.
History of exposure to ticks, especially in areas known to be at high risk, and clinical signs of fever and lameness, point to a possible diagnosis. A blood test is commonly used to diagnose the disease.
The treatment consists of administration of appropriate antibiotics for approximately one month. Dogs at risk (I.e. in Lyme disease areas, hunting dogs or dogs that have similar frequent outdoor activities) should be vaccinated against the disease.
It is not likely for an owner to get Lyme disease from an infected dog. Humans however can get infected by a carrier tick.
It is important to discuss Lyme disease and tick prevention with the veterinarian and take the necessary steps to prevent the disease.
Ehrlichiosis is an emerging disease of human interest. It is more common in dogs, but other animals and humans may be infected. The agent, Ehrlichia is a microscopic organism that infects blood cells. Ticks need to be attached to the host for 24 to 48 hours before they can transmit the disease, so quick removal of ticks is life saving. Dogs can also get infected through blood transfusions .In dogs the disease has an acute phase characterized by loss of appetite, depression, stiffness, coughing, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the scrotum or limbs. Dogs can recover spontaneously may become chronically ill. The diagnosis is based on the clinical signs, history and a blood test.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (also called tick fever) in dogs typically affects dogs that are outdoors frequently. Signs may include: fever, loss of appetite, arthritis, coughing, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face or extremities. Neurological and vascular signs may also occur.
Cytauxzoonosis is a highly fatal tick born disease of cats. Cats develop fever, depression and go off food. They then develop a fatal anemia and yellowish mucus membranes. Healthy carriers Bobcats are the natural reservoir of the parasite. Avoiding ticks and prompt removal of ticks you find on your pets are necessary steps in preventing tick transmissible diseases.
Talk to the veterinarian about the best ways and methods to protect your pets and yourself.[Back]