Ticks are everywhere in great abundance this summer, and with ticks comes disease. Most of us are familiar with Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks. Did you know that up to 80% of the deer ticks in our area also carry an organism called Anaplasma phagocytophilum? This organism infects dogs through tick bites and can cause a disease that can look very similar to Lyme disease. Anaplasmosis can cause fever, lethargy, lameness and in some cases blood disorders which lead to bleeding. To make things even worse, we are now seeing Ehrlichia canis, an organism very closely related to Anaplasma, that used to be found only in the mid-Atlantic and southern states. When your dog comes in for its annual Heartworm/Tick disease blood test, we screen for Heartworm disease and these 3 tick-borne diseases. Just 15 years ago, we didn't have any of these infections, 10 years ago, we only had Lyme to worry about, and just a few years ago, Anaplasmosis was the "new thing." Now, not only do we have the 3 deer tick borne diseases I mentioned earlier, we have started seeing Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Maine and the black legged ticks that carry it.
Many people react to a positive test for infection with a tick borne disease by saying "but my dog hasn't had any ticks", and this is because they haven't SEEN any. Unfortunately, if you have a dog like these two sleepy guys, you are not going to find ticks, even when they are there. Even if you have a dog with short, light colored hair, ticks feed most when they are nymphs and are only the size of the head of a pin. In short, the best way to avoid having your pet get infected by one of these nasty bugs is to keep ticks off. There are lots of products that claim to kill or repel ticks but we highly recommend you stop by and pick up a prescription product like Nexgard, Frontline Gold or Vectra if you really want to kill ticks before they can transmit disease, and do it safely. If you are using these products, you will still find ticks climbing on your pets (I picked 11 off my dog last Sunday), but they will not survive long enough to attach, feed and transmit disease. If your dog is acting lethargic, lame or just suddenly very ill and they spend time outdoors, you might want to have them tested. Try to avoid areas of long grass and brush since this is prime tick territory, and by all means, look for ticks when your pet comes in, you may not find them all but you can certainly cut down on the risk of infection. Have a great rest of the summer and remember, we are here to answer any questions you may have.