What’s small, has eight legs, and feeds off the blood of humans and animals?
You got it, ticks. These tiny parasites are not only gross, but they can also spread disease to both people and pets. Thanks to an increase in the geographical distribution of ticks throughout the country, tick diseases in pets are being diagnosed with greater frequency in recent years.
Tick-borne illnesses in pets can cause big problems, and may even be life-threatening in some cases, making knowledge of these illnesses an important part of responsible pet ownership.
Lyme disease is the most well-known of the tick diseases in pets, and is transmitted by the Brown Deer Tick. The tick must be attached to the host for more than 48 hours in order to pass along the Lyme disease bacteria, and symptoms (if any) tend to pop up about 2-5 months after the tick bite.
Signs your pet may have Lyme disease include fever, joint pain/swelling, limping, lameness, swollen lymph nodes, and lethargy. Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to detect, and can cause recurring health problems. Your veterinarian can help you to determine if your pet is a good candidate for the Lyme disease vaccine.
Other Tick Diseases in Pets
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever – Unlike its name, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is not limited to the western United States. The disease, which is carried by the American Dog Tick, Rocky Mountain Wood Tick, and Brown Deer Tick, has been found throughout North, South, and Central America. Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, and loss of appetite.
- Ehrlichiosis – The Brown Dog Tick is the most common carrier of ehrlichiosis, which can cause fever, respiratory distress, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, and bleeding disorders.
- Babesiosis – The signs of babesiosis infection include fever, dark urine, weakness, depression, swollen lymph nodes, and sudden collapse.
- Anaplasmosis – Fever, joint pain, lethargy, and loss of appetite may accompany an anaplasmosis infection.
It can be tempting to skip your pet’s monthly parasite preventive during the colder months, but any lapse in protection puts your pet at risk. Ticks can be brought into Minnesota at any time of the year via tourism, and a few unseasonably warm days may be all that’s needed to bring hibernating tick nymphs out of hiding. It’s also important to note that Lyme disease-carrying ticks remain active as long as the temperature is above freezing.
In addition to a monthly parasite prevention protocol, be sure to check your pet for ticks each time they come in from outside. If you find a tick, remove it by grasping the head with a pair of tweezers and pulling straight out, being careful not to squeeze. Drown the tick in rubbing alcohol or flush it down the toilet to dispose of it.
Thanks to an increase in the geographical distribution of ticks throughout the country, tick diseases in pets are being diagnosed with greater frequency in recent years.