Ticks carry Lyme disease, and increasingly people know that. But it’s not only a matter of Lyme, it’s potentially a cocktail of tick disease. An examination of thousands of blacklegged (or “deer”) ticks in upstate New York’s Duchess County revealed that while 30 percent of people were infected with the agent for Lyme disease, one third of that group was also infected with a second disease pathogen. Even more unexpected, according to researchers, was the finding that some were infected with three disease-related pathogens or bacteria.
If this is true in people – it’s not only scary, it’s also true for dogs as well and potentially equally as scary.
The second most common infection agent was for babesiosis, a malaria-like parasitic disease. A third pathogen rated as “newly emerging,” which causes anaplasmosis in humans, was also present in some of the examined ticks. Anaplasmosis often includes fever, severe headaches, malaise, muscle pains, and chills. Other symptoms may include confusion, hemorrhages, and renal failure, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation. According to veterinary parasitologist and a founder and board member of the Companion Animal Parasite Council Dr. Byran Blagburn says all tick diseases seem to be on the rise, with Lyme and anaplasmosis leading the way.
While blacklegged ticks, commonly called deer ticks, for the host upon which they feed, they can also acquire pathogens from mice and chipmunks, and in big cities perhaps rats.
Why wait for a bite? Blagburn says that in his opinion it makes sense to use a topical tick preventative, products squeezed from a tube and placed on the back of a dog, with repellency properties. If the bug is repelled – it obviously can’t bite.
If a bug does manage to hitch a ride, with the right topical products there’s instant kill before a bite will happen. “While many of the oral (chewable) products are fast acting, why take a chance?” Blagburn adds.
The good news is that we can do more to protect our dogs against ticks and the diseases they carry than we can ourselves.
It begins with a sensitive and inexpensive test for Lyme exposure, which is conducted in-clinic. The same blood test will also indicate two other nasty tick borne diseases (Ehrlichia ewingii and Anaplasma platys) as well as heartworm disease (which is spread by mosquitoes). Blagburn says that he feels this test should be standard of care.
There are lots of products which work, and your veterinarian can offer the best choice for your pet(s). If you live where there’s lots of Lyme, ask your veterinarian about the Lyme vaccine.
Blacklegged or deer ticks aren’t the only species which give the gift of co-infection, other tick species may do the same. And while ticks are most common in rural areas, increasingly they’re occurring in big cities too.
Keeping the bugs off in the first places is one common sense approach to protection, which pet owners prefer. In a just released survey conducted by CEVA Animal Health and DogChannel.com, dog owners say they favor topical medications by a nine to one margin as a product type of choice so their dog’s blood doesn’t become lunch to fleas, ticks or mosquitoes.
For more from Steve Dale, visit his blog!