Tick off!

Dr. Kate Lawton

With the start of school comes the second wave of ticks and if the spring was any indicator, it’s going to be a doozy. While ticks are quite disgusting on their own, they can also transmit a myriad of diseases to your dog. You are probably most familiar with Lyme disease, but Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis are a few of the other tick borne diseases that can affect our furry friends.

Lyme disease is transmitted by the beloved little deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). The deer tick must attach and feed on the dog for greater than 24 hours in order to transmit the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that cause Lyme disease. Despite the odds, the majority of our canine patients test positive at some point in their lives. The good news is that most dogs that are infected never show any clinical signs; for the not so lucky few, clinical signs include fever, lethargy, and joint pain and in a small subset of patients it can go as far as causing kidney failure and death. This is why we often recommend checking a urine sample if your dog tests positive for exposure. Also, while your dog can bring ticks into the house which can subsequently crawl onto family members, please note that your dog cannot give you Lyme disease or any other tick-borne disease mentioned in this article.

Anaplasmosis (caused by the bacteria Anaplasma platys) is very similar to Lyme disease in that it is transmitted by the same tick and can mimic the same clinical signs. Anaplasmosis can also decrease a dog’s platelet count, causing blood to have difficulty clotting. This is why we may recommend checking your dog’s platelet level if he or she tests positive. While we don’t see as much illness caused by the Anaplasma bacteria, it is thought that a simultaneous infection with Lyme disease increases the risk of becoming ill.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis are presently less common to our geographical area but have been noted within New England. They are transmitted by the American Dog Tick, the Lone Star tick, and the Brown Dog Tick, respectively. Clinical signs can be very vague and some dogs will remain asymptomatic. Babesiosis, specifically, can affect red blood cells causing anemia and appears to be most common in Greyhounds and Pit bulls.

The key to preventing these tick-borne diseases in your pet is stringent tick control. There are many available products on the market, making it very difficult to choose the right product for your pet. Most commonly we are choosing to recommend K9 ADVANTIX II, which is a once-a-month topical product that has both a repellant property to we hope keep ticks off your dog entirely and an insecticide to kill the tick if it were to attach to your dog. The goal is to make sure those nasty buggers die before they have time to transmit any disease to your dog.

Newer on the market is the Scalibor collar which has recently gained popularity with our clients due to convenience and lower overall cost. The Scalibor collar lasts six months when consistently worn. Its mechanism of defense is similar to the compound found in Advantix in that is should keep ticks off with its repellency but also kill the tick if it is still able to attach. The active ingredient is spread in small amounts via friction through the oily layer of your dog’s coat forming a protective barrier. The collar is fully water resistant with no bathing restrictions and can be worn while swimming. What’s the catch? None so far. Our pioneering clients have been very happy thus far with the efficacy of the Scalibor collar for tick control. For more information, visit www.scalibor-usa.com. Give the office a call if you want to give it a try for your dog.