Tick Guide for Dogs (Part 2): tick-borne diseases

We have SO many tick-borne disease in Kenya and they can be fast and deadly: dead dogs in 24 hours, or the dog being just lethargic and not eating well for a couple of weeks before the owners are able to pick up what is causing this.

What is a tick?

The tick, a type of insect parasite, attaches itself to animal skin, feasting on the host’s blood. Infected ticks, however, can spread diseases to their host. A vet can diagnose a tick-borne disease in a dog based on blood analysis.

Through their saliva, ticks can carry bacteria and viruses which can also cause human diseases. When a tick takes a blood meal (after biting an animal) it attaches to one’s skin using a mouthpiece called a hypostoma. Once attached, there are alternating periods of sucking blood and salivation, with regurgitation occurring frequently. The periods of salivation allow the virus or bacteria to enter the body and infect the host.

Thousands of canine tick-borne diseases are diagnosed annually. Many more go undiagnosed and therefore untreated. Though many tick-borne diseases exist, some are considered more common than others.

Where do ticks live?

Ticks can be picked up in vegetative areas like forests and meadows. The inquisitive nature and low-lying stature of dogs compared to humans also makes them more susceptible to infestations and thus, potential infection. However, if dogs are bringing infected ticks home with them, the ticks can crawl off the canine and onto the owner, biting and infecting the human. Direct disease transmission between dogs and humans has not been found.

What are the most common canine tick-borne diseases?

1. Lyme Disease

Symptoms range from joint pain, lethargy, and lameness to decreased appetite and fever. Signs of infection can take months to appear. It is also worth noting that dogs do not get the tell-tale bulls-eye rash common in humans at the bite site of a tick carrying Lyme disease.

2. Ehrlichiosis

This tick-borne disease exists globally and is one of the most common. It is caused by the bite of an infected brown dog tick. Signs of the illness include fever, decreased appetite and weight loss, depression, runny nose or watery eyes, respiratory distress, frequent bloody noses, and enlarged lymph nodes or limbs. Symptoms can also be delayed from infection.

3. Babesiosis

Anemia is the most common sign of infection but also look for dark urine, fever, swollen lymph nodes and weakness. Babesiosis is found all around the globe.

How can you protect your dogs from ticks? 

By brushing dogs outside your property (like before you get back in the car at the forest or after hiking), you can dislodge ticks that have been picked up, but not yet attached to the dog. Brush your dog’s face, neck and legs. These are the main areas where ticks crawl to to find a place to attach.

Also talk to your vet about a tick/flea prophylactic treatment appropriate for your dog. We have a new range of treatments from spot-on topical oil types to collars, and chewable tablets to choose from, but look to your vet for guidance as not all may be appropriate for your dog. 

If you have cows in your neighborhood or passing through, be especially observant and vigilant as the cows harbor ticks that will drop off and you will soon find them on your dog!

REFERENCES

 

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