Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because of their ability to attach firmly to the dog and go unnoticed for several days while they suck blood from their host. They look like a harmless skin tag but if you look closely you will see four pairs of moving legs while the mouth piece is sunken into the skin of your pet. Animals pick up ticks when they walk through vegetation. Ticks like to wait on the tips of grasses and shrubs and then crawl on to the pet. They can live through temperatures of 7 C and above.
When taking a blood meal, ticks can transmit bacteria which evade the dog’s immune system and can live in the animal without triggering an immune response. Most dogs infected with bacteria do not initially show clinical signs. However, in the case where these individuals experience stress of any type (e.g. travel, vacations, excess activity, boarding), they can become sick. It is the body’s attempt to attack the bacteria that cause disease.
Animals which are clinical for Lyme disease caused by a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdoferi, may have shifting lameness that waxes and wanes, fever, lethargy and vomiting. In severe cases, terminal heart and kidney disease can occur. Lyme infection can be diagnosed with a blood test which can be performed by your veterinarian. A positive result then warrants a follow-up blood test to measure the exact levels of antibody. Antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease can be very successful if caught early enough and a Lyme vaccination can help prevent the pet from becoming clinical.
Dogs bitten by ticks infected with a bacterium known as Anaplasma phagocytophilum may exhibit fever, swollen and painful joints, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, low platelet numbers and in rare cases, neurological signs. The 4dx snap test is the test of choice for Lyme disease, after which treatment with antibiotics is initiated. There is no vaccine for Anaplasmosis.
Another bacteria known as Rhipicephalus can cause a disease a known as Ehrlichiosis. Dogs affected clinically with this disease can have fever, painful joints, bleeding complications, permanent blindness, auto-immune disease and sometimes death. The 4dx snap test can detect positive cases for Ehrlichia. Again, the treatment through antibiotics is successful if caught and tended to early. There is no vaccine for Ehrlichia.
Some infections cannot be cured completely, but early intervention usually provides the best prognosis. Ticks also have the ability to carry more than one type of bacterium making infection much more likely. The best form of prevention is daily inspection for ticks, removal, vaccination where available, as well as topicals and collars provided by a veterinarian to kill and prevent the attachment of ticks.