Ticks cause more than just Lyme Disease

This is a blog reprint from January. It is timely right now. We are seeing equal to greater numbers of ticks than we did last year.

 

Cooper is having a dose of Vectra applied.

Cooper is having a dose of Vectra applied.

By: Dr. Regehr

Welcome to 2014 everyone. I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Today, I am going to sum up the “Ticks of 2013″ for you. No, it’s not a calendar for lovers of 8 legged parasites, it is the tally of infections spread by ticks that we saw in dogs in 2013. I did say infections. Everyone knows about Lyme infection but there are others that are far more common in our area. In eastern Kansas we have ticks that can transmit all of the following: Lyme, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Most people are familiar with the annual blood test for heartworm infection in dogs, but did you know that we also test for exposure to Lyme, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia. These three diseases along with Lyme disease can cause illness in both you and your pet. Not to worry, your pet can’t infect you. However, if your dog has been exposed then you and your pet are at risk by living near infected ticks.

In the spring, in one week, we had three dogs test positive on our screening test for Ehrlichia. All the dogs also had symptoms and blood work supporting active infection. Let’s look at infection/exposure by the numbers.

In 2013 we had to following positive tests:

Ehrlichia     12

Lyme             1

Anaplasma  1

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever 1

Heartworm  1 (spread by mosquitos, not ticks)

Most of these dogs, like I said, needed treatment based on signs and/or blood work evaluation. We saw dogs with the classic joint swelling and pain associated with Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. We also saw the malaise and significant blood work changes associated with Ehrlichia. (To learn more about these diseases in humans, click on the links).

Let’s get to why this is so important! With the exception of three of these dogs, every patient lived in a suburban area and most of these pet owners have never seen a tick on their pet. This is evidence enough to really take to heart that tick prevention, just like flea and heartworm prevention is supremely important.

Tick diseases can be slow and sneaky in their onset of signs making them hard and costly to diagnose without the screening test. Also, the medication used to treat this family of diseases has become cost prohibitive for some pet owners due to decreased availability of this generic medication. For large dogs, depending on the pharmacy, a prescription may cost $200-$300.

There are a few take home messages today. The first urban and suburban dwelling people and pets are exposed to ticks that transmit disease. The second is to follow the recommendation for year round use one of our two recommended tick products, Preventic or Vectra. There is a product for any lifestyle. Let us help you keep your pet safe and healthy.

 

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