Wet, mild winters usually result in an explosion of the tick population increasing the risk that your pet may come in contact with any of the numerous tick-bourne diseases. Knowing a little about each disease will go a long way toward helping you manage this onslaught. As a primer:
Lyme Disease is probably the most recognizable tick-borne illness and is caused by the bacterium “borrelia burgdorferi”. This disease is transmitted to humans and pets by the bite of infected deer ticks. These ticks are very small; in fact, often no bigger than a pinhead during their immature stages. Ticks feed by inserting their mouths into the skin of a host and slowly taking in blood. It is during this feeding that “borrelia burgdorferi” can be transmitted to the host. Among the symptoms your dog may exhibit may include:
- Conditions characterized as arthritis
- Warm or swollen joints
- Loss of appetite
- Pain that shifts from one leg to another
Diagnosis is usually based on exposure risk, clinical symptoms and blood testing.
Tick Paralysis is caused by a neurotoxin found in tick saliva. An infected pet will show signs five to nine days after tick attachment. The typical symptoms are general loss of neuromuscular function, usually starting from the back end of the animal and moving forward. Diagnosis of tick paralysis is usually based on clinical signs, presence of ticks, and ruling out other causes of paralysis. Luckily, the clinical signs typically resolve soon after tick removal.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is most commonly transmitted by the American Dog tick. Signs include: fewer inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea, depression and cough.
Several of these diseases take time to develop and exhibit full-blown symptoms. It is very important, however, to treat each of these diseases quickly. If you allow your pet access to the outdoors, keep a keen eye on him and talk to your vet immediately about any sudden behavioral changes.