Friday, September 19, 2014
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New tick season brings danger to dogs

After this Polar Vortexing “bear” of a winter, your dog – like you – may have a major case of Spring Fever.

New tick season brings danger to dogs

After this Polar Vortexing “bear” of a winter, your dog – like you – may have a major case of Spring Fever.

But with April kicking off tick season (which last through September) in many parts of the country, it’s also prime time for these little buggers to give Fido other types of fever, major diseases or even cause death. Here’s how:

Lyme disease

In addition to humans, this bacterium technically known as borrelia burgdorferi also afflicts dogs. Sometimes taking months, symptoms can include arthritis or swollen joints, lameness, fatigue, fever and swelling of the lymph nodes. In extreme cases, kidney failure can result – leading to death. Although a national problem spread by deer ticks, Lyme disease in dogs is most common in northeastern states (especially the Mid-Atlantic), upper Midwest and in California.

Canine Anaplasmosis

Also spread by deer ticks, as well as the brown dog tick, this condition most commonly causes a high fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and swollen joint. Less noticeable, dogs may experience neck pain.  As this bacteria white blood cells, spreading throughout the body. In extreme cases, dogs may develop seizures and other brain disorders, nosebleeds and bruising or even death. Canine anaplasmosis is also most common in the same regions as Lyme disease.

Canine Ehrlichiosis

Also caused by the brown dog tick, ehrlichiosis causes weight loss, fever, runny nose, lethargy and bleeding from the eyes. Also look for lack of appetite, resulting from gum bruising. There are three stages: the first, occurring several weeks after infection and lasting for up to a month, can lead to fever and affecting blood counts; a second stage with outward signs; and a third and most serious stage in which dogs may develop eye, brain and kidney problems that could cause death. The Southwest and Gulf states are where this disease is most frequently diagnosed.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Caused by three species of ticks – the American dog tick, the lone star tick and the wood tick – initial infection is marked by listlessness, fever, loss of appetite, cough, conjunctivitis (“red eye” and discharge), and swelling of the legs and joints. Some dogs may develop seizures, skin lesions, an unstable gait or altered mental state. Weeks later, dogs may have nosebleeds and blood in the urine and stools, which can cause shock, organ failure or death. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever occurs across nationwide, with most cases in California, the South, and the states with the Rocky Mountains.

Canine Babesiosis

Unlike other tick-borne disease, this results from a protozoa – microscopic, one-celled organisms that can be free-living or parasitic in nature – rather than a bacterium. Still, it’s bad news, destroying red blood cells to cause anemia. Other signs include fever, lack and energy and appetite, pale gums, dark urine and/or discolored stools, weight loss and an enlarged abdomen. This disease can cause death from unusually low blood pressure and shock, and most often strikes dogs in southern states along with Oklahoma, Arizona and Arkansas.

Quick Action Counts

Scary stuff, certainly. The good news is that with early detection and treatment, you and your vet can usually prevent tick bites from becoming fatal. Some ticks are easy to find – certainly easier than fleas and they don’t move around as much – so do a regular visual examination, especially after your dog romps through wooded areas.

When petting your pet, be mindful of what may feel like a bump or skin tag – likely a tick. If you find a tick, many vets recommend you soak a cotton swab in mineral oil and hold it against the tick for 30 seconds, causing it to ease its grip on your dog’s skin. Then use a pair of tweezers – not your fingers -- to squeeze the skin around the tick, grabbing the tick's head. Pull the tick away from the skin, and then clean the area with rubbing alcohol. There may be some redness for a day or two, but it should subside.

Another similar method is to soak a cotton ball with some liquid soap and swab the exposed part of the tick a few times with it. Then hold the soaked cotton ball on the tick so they are touching. Within 15 seconds, the tick should dislodge itself and come away from the skin, attached to the cotton ball.

Also let your Best Friend give you some clues. Look for signs such as:

  • Scratching
  • Shaking of the head (ticks often live inside or behind ears)
  • Chewing on feet, as ticks also shelter between toes
  • Biting at hindquarters
  • Sudden hair loss, usually behind ears, down the back or on back legs, tail and/or rump
  • Red, flaky and scaling skin

Better yet, learn how to prevent potential problems with these 10 tips to help your dog be tick-free – this and every other season.

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Welcome to the philly.com pets blog, where you'll find everything from training tips and tricks, to the latest news on animal shelters and pet events.

Gabrielle Bonghi Philly.com
Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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