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The arrival of spring sunshine and allergies also means the unwelcome arrival of ticks and tick-borne disease. While ticks and other parasites are present year-round, there are a lot more of them this time of year through autumn. If you and your pet are out and about in nature, educate yourself about the risk of a tick bite and the tick-borne diseases those bites can carry.

To help you protect your furry loved ones from serious illnesses caused by ticks, Westarbor Animal Hospital is here to give you a solid overview.

The Life of a Tick

Ticks are not insects but a type of arachnid, related to spiders. With over 80 species of ticks found in the United States, thankfully only a subset of those pose health risks. The most common tick species that transmit tick-borne illnesses to pets and people are the brown dog tick, American dog tick, and deer tick.

Ticks are almost anywhere, but are most common in bushy areas, with piles of leaves and debris. They also like warm, damp places to lay their eggs. Because of warmer than average winters most recent years, ticks have managed to thrive throughout the cold seasons, when they normally go dormant.

Ticks feed on warm-blooded mammals, from wildlife, such as deer and raccoons, to domestic animals like your dog or cat. This tiny arachnid will attach to a host and feed until they engorge themselves with blood. They can remain attached for several days, and they transmit most tick-borne diseases within 24-48 hours of attachment.

Tick-Borne Diseases and Your Pet

Most people know about Lyme disease and the problems it can lead to in humans, but did you know that tick-borne diseases affect thousands of pets? Here are some of the more commonly diagnosed illnesses carried to pets by ticks.

  1. Ehrlichiosis — This disease is transmitted by the brown dog tick, lone star tick, and American dog tick, although more frequently by the brown dog tick. Symptoms of ehrlichiosis include fever, nose bleeds, weight loss, swelling of muscles and joints, and pain associated with stiffness. It can lie dormant for years before symptoms emerge.
  2. Lyme disease — Lyme disease brings about long-lasting damage to the body. This may include fever, lameness, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and swollen muscles and joints. Secondary conditions can emerge as a result of the disease, including heart and kidney diseases. It can also attack the nervous system and cause neurological damage.
  3. Rocky Mountain spotted fever — This disease is caused by the Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria. It is transmitted from the bite of a Rocky Mountain wood tick or American dog tick. Symptoms include loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, inflammation of several joints, abdominal pain, and coughing.
  4. Anaplasmosis — This disease very much resembles Lyme disease and is found in the same regions, but is not the same type of infection. Characteristics of anaplasmosis include unusual bleeding, such as nose bleeds and internal bleeding.

Other diseases that affect pets include babosiosis and bartonellosis, also serious in nature.

Tick-Borne Disease Prevention for Your Pet

Since tick-borne diseases are serious and sometimes fatal, it’s important to do everything you can to protect your pet. Practice the following tick safety tips for your four-legged friend and remove ticks as soon as you can.

  • Keep your pet on a monthly flea and tick preventative.
  • Look for ticks on your pet’s skin every time you return from the outdoors, including ears, groin, and under the armpits where ticks can hide. If you find a tick, use tweezers to get as close as possible to the head of the tick, where it attaches to the body. Pull it up straight, being careful not to twist to avoid leaving the head of the tick still attached.
  • Cut down grassy or overgrown areas of the yard.
  • Discourage wildlife that carry disease and parasites by putting open trash bins in the garage  and never feeding your pet outside.

If you would like more information on ticks or tick-borne diseases, or instructions on how to safely remove a tick, please contact us. Also call our office if you think you may didn’t get the entire tick while removing it. We can take a look and make sure your pet is safe.

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