Along with all of the fun in the sun that we associate with the warmer months, spring through fall are also the peak seasons of activity for one of nature’s not-so-nice wild critters: ticks!
Exposure to ticks, either from the woods, at the local dog park, or even in our own yards, puts your canine companion at risk of several diseases carried by these dirty little parasites, making it essential that you choose an appropriate tick repellant for your pup.
Tick Species: Blacklegged Tick (also known as a deer tick) and Western Blacklegged Tick
Geographical Regions: Northeast and west of the Great Lakes
The incidents of reported cases of Lyme Disease in people have been on the rise in the last decade, up to about 30,000 cases a year in the U.S., according to the CDC. However, since the disease is both difficult to diagnose and often asymptomatic for years, the actual number of new infections annually may be as high as 300,000 per year.
Most dogs infected with Lyme Disease will never show any symptoms, however 5-10% of those affected may show lameness that may shift between different legs and show up and disappear periodically.
Left untreated, the disease can progress to include kidney failure as well as some other rare but life threatening complications.
Tick Species: American Dog Tick and the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick
Geographical Regions: Central Eastern states through the Midwest and along the Pacific Coast
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is another common tick-borne disease that affects dogs in the United States. Dogs and humans appear to be the only mammals that can get this disease.
Early symptoms vary widely and may include:
Left untreated, this disease can quickly progress to include:
Early diagnosis is critical for successful medical care which usually involves aggressive treatment with antibiotics such as doxycycline.
Tick Species: Brown Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick
Geographical Regions: Can be found across the U.S., but most common on the Gulf Coast, Southwestern coast, and the eastern seaboard
This bacterial infection is also known as Rickettsia. The offending bacteria target white blood cells and typically progress along three general stages:
Within 1-3 weeks:
Remission (months to years):
Chronic stage (if left untreated):
Certain breeds, particularly Dobermans and German Shepherds, tend to be more sensitive to this infection and are more likely to develop severe symptoms associated with it. Prognosis for a full recovery is good if caught and treated early.
In this article, we have covered three of the most common tick-borne illnesses that affect dogs, however there are several other diseases that can be spread to our canines through these nasty parasites. These diseases include Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Bartonella, and Hepatozoonosis.
It is clear that giving your dog protection from these diseases is part of responsible dog ownership. Here are some tips to make sure you are doing all you can for your trusty canine companion:
Here are some tips for reducing tick populations in your yard:
Many tick borne illnesses require 4-48 hours of exposure to an attached tick before infection can occur. This means that manual checking for ticks on a daily basis may reduce the chances of your dog getting infected as well as making sure they are not dragging these unwanted pests into your home.
A daily brush with a tick comb (outdoors) is a good habit to get into during the warm months. In addition, use a damp cloth to wipe down areas such as the inner legs, belly and around the ears—many ticks will seek out these areas because of the thinner skin found there.
Luckily, there are many precautions you can take to help reduce your dog’s risk of tick borne illnesses. Start by learning which ticks and their associated diseases are most common in your neck of the woods so that you can be on the look out for early symptoms. Then, take ticks seriously by following your vet’s recommendations for the most effective products to give your dog the protection they deserve. Finally, keep the outdoor areas where you and your dog spend the most time less inviting to ticks by keeping your landscaping under control.
Photo by flickr photographer olgierd