Tick season is here again in many parts of the country. Ticks can cause diseases in both dogs and humans as well as other pets. Most people do not realize that there are a number of diseases that are transmitted by ticks with some infections taking place in as little as three hours after being bitten.
Many diseases transmitted by ticks can infect a variety of species of animals as well as humans. Although many pet owners use tick and flea prevention drugs, it is important to realize that while the tick may not bite the pet, the tick can travel from the pet to a human.
Therefore, if the pet owner lives in an area where there are ticks or their pet goes to a tick infested area, the pet should be checked thoroughly for ticks. One way to do this is to use a flea comb and comb the pet’s fur right to the skin but not digging into the skin.
Sometimes a pet owner can run their hands over the pet and feel a tick. This is very important if the pet sleeps on the owners bed, furniture of sits on the owner’s lap. Keep in mind that ticks are found in bushes, trees, grass, weeds, and in the soil. Check with your veterinarian to see what tick preventative medicine is best for your pet
Pets and humans (especially children) should be checked for ticks every time they go into a potentially tick infested area. Ticks are often most active in the spring and fall, but in certain areas of the country can be active year round.
Humans can use insect repellent when entering tick infested areas. Wearing long sleeves and putting pant legs inside socks can help prevent ticks from crawling up pant legs and arms. Hats can help to protect the head from ticks dropping from overhead vegetation. .
If the tick embeds it should be removed as quickly as possible. A product called a tick key is very useful in removing ticks from pets and humans.
If you do not have a tick key, remove a tick by using tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull up with a stead, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick since the head of the tick may break off. If it does try to remove the head with the tweezers. Do not touch the tick with your hands if possible. Dispose of it by dropping it in rubbing alcohol or wrap the tick on sticky tape and throw it away. Be sure to wash your hands after handling a tick.
It is a good idea to take a shower after working or playing in tick infested areas and washing your clothes. Ticks can hide in clothing and then crawl into the home. With a little diligence and care, you can protect yourself and your pets from tick diseases.
Ticks exist in all 50 states, with some having greater infestations than others. Here is a list of some of the tick diseases:
Anaplasmosis human, – is also known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Ticks get the organism when feeding on deer, elk or wild rodents. The symptoms are: fever, headache, muscle pain,malaise, chills, nausea and/or abdominal pain, cough, confusion and although rare, a rash. Dogs can get anaplasmosis as well as other animals. The symptoms in dogs are: joint pain, high fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and neck pain.
Bartonellosis – Although it is thought to be carried by ticks, this disease at present, does not seem to be transmitted to humans through ticks. However, it is transmitted by cats through fleas. It causes what is commonly known as “cat scratch disease” and is most likely carried by feral cats. There is some evidence that it can be transmitted to humans by being bitten with an infected flea.
Hepatozoonosis – is often fatal in dogs. Dogs get it by eating an infected tick. The symptoms include: fever, weakness, muscle atrophy, generalized pain, reluctance to move, ocular discharge; and gradual deterioration of the body.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a serious, potentially fatal disease that is transmitted to humans by a tick. It is carried by the American dog tick, Rocky mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. A human can get a rash from the tick bite. It must be treated in the first few days or the disease can be fatal.
Dogs and other animals can get RMSF. The symptoms in dogs include: depression, lethargy, anorexia, blood in the urine, irregular heartbeat, discolored skin that often looks like a bruise, loss of coordination, swelling in the limbs, bleeding through the nose and stools, difficulty with blood clotting, swollen lymph nodes, pain in the eyes, inflammation or conjunctivitis.
Ehrlichiosis Affects both dogs, humans, and wild canids and is found worldwide and throughout the United States. It is transmitted by ticks including the brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick. What is important to realize is that this disease can live in a tick for up to five months, which means that a tick that has it in the fall can pass it along to a dog or human in the spring.
There are three phases of this disease. The acute phase develops in 1 – 3 weeks. The liver, lymph nodes and spleen are often enlarged. Humans get fever, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joint pain and stiffness and bruises. Dogs can sometimes fight the infection and go into the subclinical phase. In this phase the dog may show slight anemia. This phase can last for years when the dog will eliminate the disease from its body or go into the chronic phase which can be mild or severe. The signs are weight loss, anemia, neurological signs, bleeding, the eyes can become inflamed, fluid builds up in the hind legs, and fever develops. Sometimes the disease will only show up when the dog becomes stressed. In some cases arthritis or kidney disease may develop.
Lymes Disease in humans is transmitted by deer ticks or the blacklegged ticks. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a rash. This disease can spread to joints, the nervous system and the heart.
Lymes disease in dogs Symptoms include: a stiff walk with an arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing, fever, lack of appetite and depression, lymph nodes may be swollen, and although rare, heart abnormalities and neurologic issues.