Last week, a colleague of mine from work told me his dog was sick and was at the veterinarian undergoing tests. When the test results came in, his dog was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
The family, including their dog, had gone out of state for the weekend. After a family hike, he found ticks on their dog.
According to healthypet.com, there are hundreds of kinds of ticks, including dog ticks and deer ticks, that prey on the blood of dogs, cats, horses, deer, rodents, birds and people: "Ticks are small, eight-legged parasites that must drink blood in order to survive and reproduce. Ticks don't fly and they can't jump (unlike fleas) … Ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites than to 'insects' like fleas."
Ticks are dangerous to our pets because they can transmit diseases to our companion animals, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, a bacterial infection and a blood disorder.
Signs of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in our pets include depression, fever, skin hemorrhages, rashes and joint disease. If the disease is caught in the early stages, antibiotics are effective, with improvement in the animal's health seen within the first 12-24 hours.
Cases of Lyme disease have been documented in more than 40 states. The disease is transmitted by the deer tick in the Midwest and Northeast. Clinical signs of Lyme disease in our pets include loss of appetite, lameness, lethargy and fever.
Ticks can cause weakness and even paralysis, with signs varying from mild unsteadiness of all four legs to acute quadriplegia, leaving all four legs completely immobilized.
Our dogs can become a host (get ticks) by going for a walk in the woods or walking in areas of tall grass. Ticks don't jump onto their host, but rather climb and attach themselves to blades of tall grass and shrubs. When a host walks by and rubs against the plant, the tick climbs onto the host. Then the tick finds a location on the host to attach and feed. Ticks can also detect the carbon dioxide given off by warm-blooded animals and can climb several feet to get to the source.
The good news is there are effective control products that can be used on our companion animals to protect them from ticks. There are topical applications (gels or liquids that are put directly on the skin), collars, pills and chemical baths to protect against ticks (and fleas). Consult your veterinarian for the best and safest preventive for your pet.
But ticks are hard to kill. Even if you are using an effective tick control product, you should always check your dog daily. (Don't forget to check his ears and toes.) If you find a tick on your dog, don't remove it with your fingers. Protect yourself by wearing gloves and always use tweezers or tick removal tools that are available online and in stores.
Be sure to grasp the tick at, or close to, the base of the head where it's attached to your dog's skin. Then pull gently to avoid leaving the mouthparts embedded in the skin. Dr. Nicole Planter, DVM, healthypet.com, notes you can clean the area with a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide and water.
My colleague's dog is recovering from the Rocky Mountain spotted fever and is going to be all right.
We really do owe it to our dogs to keep them safe from the diseases transmitted by ticks. Consulting your veterinarian about effective tick preventives and checking your dog after a walk are the best ways to do it.
Charlie is a female Chihuahua/miniature pinscher mix. She's around 9 years old and weighs about 15 pounds.
Scooter is a male terrier mix. He's around 6 years old and weighs about 13 pounds.