As the climate heats up with the arrival of spring, and dogs revel in spending more time outdoors, big diseases lurk in tiny, icky, eight-legged packages that threaten to infect your canine companion. Tick-borne diseases can be debilitating, and their prevalence ranges across the United States and into Canada. Find out which ticks and diseases affect your geographical area, how to recognize their symptoms and what you can do to reduce your dog's risks for contracting them.
Named after the town in Connecticut where the disease was first detected, Lyme disease has since spread across the northeast and has been diagnosed in other regions of the United States. It is transmitted by the deer tick, as well as by the western black-legged tick. The signs of Lyme disease may not become evident for weeks after your dog is bitten by an infected tick, and they include limping, lethargy, fever, a decrease in appetite and swelling of the joints and lymph nodes.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Transmitted by the American dog tick and the Lone Star tick, Rocky Mountain spotted fever has been reported in dogs throughout the country and in Canada. Potentially fatal without treatment, Rocky Mountain spotted fever presents symptoms of a fever, neurological problems and stiff mobility.
Cases of canine ehrlichiosis, which is transmitted by the brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick, have been diagnosed around the globe. Within the United States, it is most concentrated in the southwest and Gulf regions. The symptoms of this blood infection include bruising, nasal bleeding, nasal discharge, swollen limbs, decreased appetite, weight loss, fever and lethargy. Your dog may not exhibit these symptoms until several weeks after he sustains a bite from the tick.
Anaplasmosis, which has been reported in dogs across the United States, is another blood infection, and it is transmitted by the deer tick and the western blacklegged tick. The symptoms of anaplasmosis include fever, lethargy, swollen joints and lymph nodes, lameness, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.
Babeosis is an infection that destroys red blood cells, resulting in anemia. It has been reported throughout Canada and the United States. Babeosis can be transmitted in two ways. First, your dog can contract the illness when bitten by an infected brown dog tick or American dog tick. Alternately, your dog can also contract babeosis if he sustains a bite wound from a dog that has the disease. The signs of babeosis include pale mucous membranes, weakness, vomiting and lethargy.
The brown dog tick transmits bartonellosis. This infection can affect your dog's joints, lymph nodes, heart, liver and central nervous system. The symptoms can wax and wane, and they include fever, lameness, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting and seizure.
Hepatozoonosis is transmitted by the brown dog tick and the Gulf tick and is most prevalent in the southern United States. The symptoms of hapatozoonosis include muscle pain, fever, discharge from the nose and eyes and bloody diarrhea. The symptoms may not present until weeks to months after an infected tick bites your dog.
Treatment for most of these diseases consists of antibiotic therapy and symptomatic relief of aches, inflammation and other symptoms. Treatment is most effective when initiated during the early stages of tick-borne diseases. In more advanced cases, hospitalization and supportive care may be necessary. Laboratory blood tests are available to screen for many of the tick-borne diseases, and in high risk geographical areas, such screenings may be performed as part of your dog's annual checkup.
If you live in a heavily wooded area or plan to bring your furry friend along for hiking, hunting or camping expeditions in areas of forest, brush or high grass, take the following preventative measures to reduce his risk of contracting a tick-borne disease:
- Ask your veterinarian about adding the Lyme vaccine to your dog's vaccination schedule.
- Use a tick preventative product that your veterinarian specifically recommends for your dog.
- After each outing, inspect your dog thoroughly from nose to tail for ticks, and remove any tick that you find. If you remove a tick that has attached to your dog's skin, seal it in a jar that contains rubbing alcohol in case you need your veterinarian to identify it if your dog shows subsequent signs of illness.
- If you have removed a tick that was attached to your dog's skin, inspect the area daily for swelling or redness. If you observe these signs, or any of the aforementioned symptoms of tick-borne illnesses, bring your dog to your veterinarian for an evaluation and prompt treatment.
Remember that humans can contract a litany of tick-borne illnesses as well, so be sure to take proactive steps to protect everyone in your household. Outdoor adventures and playtime should be fun for your and your dog, and by being proactive when it comes to protection, you will ensure that communing with nature is safe for both of you as well.
For more information and assistance, contact a nearby veterinarian clinic, such as Canal Road Animal Hospital.