Ticks are nasty creatures that nobody wants to see on themselves or their dogs. It’s a myth that ticks can fly. What they actually do is wait for a host on a blade of grass or leaf. They raise their forelegs in the air and latch onto your dog, or YOU, when you walk by.
This is called “questing”.
If you live in an area where ticks are endemic, you may have reason to be concerned. The tick population is on the rise, and that leaves more people and pets at risk for chronic and sometimes debilitating disease.
Ticks can be active year-round although they are most active during the summer and fall. In addition, it seems that warming global temperatures are extending tick activity throughout the year.
According to the CDC Tickborne Disease Surveillance Data Summary, cases of anaplasmosis rose from 5750 reported infection in 2016 to 7718 reported infections in 2017.
QUICK TICK FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW!
-Some dogs don’t show any signs of the disease. Those who do show symptoms might have them from 1 – 7 days.
-Ticks only need to be attached for 3 – 6 hours for Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to be transmitted.
–Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) bacterial infection requires 24 – 48 hours of feeding before a host is infected.
-An infected tick must feed for at least 24 hours before anaplasmosis is transmitted and spread.
-Black-legged ticks (aka deer tick) can transmit a variety of pathogens including anaplasmosis.
-Brown dog tick can transmit Lyme Disease.
-Other tick-borne infections include the following:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Canine ehrlichiosis
What is Anaplasmosis?
Anaplasmosis is a disease caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. It is caused by tick bites and, in rare cases, via blood transfusion. Unfortunately, the incidence of this disease is on the rise.
High incidence of the disease is reported in:
- Northern California
- New York
- Western Pennsylvania
- West Virginia
The bacteria is carried by the blacklegged tick (or deer tick) along the northeastern part of the United States. However, it’s the western blacklegged tick that carries the disease along the west coast.
The infection comes in two forms (see below). Each type has its own bacterial strain and come with a different set of characteristics.
An infected tick must feed on your dog for at least 24 hours in order to spread infection.
While some dogs will show no signs of the infection, others will have flu-like illness sometimes referred to as dog tick fever.
This tick-borne bacterial disease presents in two forms:
This infection is transmitted by the deer tick and the western black-legged tick and is the most common form found in dogs.
Symptoms of Anaplasmosis Phagocytophilum in Dogs
As mentioned earlier, many dogs show no clinical signs of disease. If the dog is going to show symptoms, they usually occur within two to three weeks of the tick bite.
These can include:
- Low appetite
- Difficulty Breathing
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Lameness (common symptom in Lyme Disease)
A. platys is a less common form of the disease. There are some similarities between the two infections. However, this form of the disease is characterized by an attack on the blood platelets. Because of this, the dog can develop abnormal bleeding disorders.
This particular bacterial infection can also cause chronic anaplasmosis that may come and go over time.
A. platys is transmitted by the brown dog tick.
Cyclic Thrombocytopenia in Dogs
A. platys can cause cyclic thrombocytopenia in dogs, which is is an infection of the platelets. The infection causes the platelet numbers to fluctuate over time.
Platelets help in the blood clotting process but a low count can cause bruising and bleeding in dogs. In fact, it can even cause your dog to have nosebleeds.
Platelets are vital for the healthy clotting process in dogs and are necessary for preventing blood loss.
In addition to transmission of disease via tick bites, low platelet counts can be caused by:
- Certain medications
- Bacterial infection
- Spleen disorders
Common Signs of Anaplasmosis Platys in Dogs
It’s important to remember that not all dogs will show every symptom. The most common signs are flu-like symptoms including:
- Joint Pain
- Loss of appetite
Other Symptoms Could Include:
- Unexplained bruising
- Pale gums
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Canine anaplasmosis is considered an acute disease that develops within 1 to 2 weeks after a tick bite.
Late Stage Signs of Illness
Anaplasmosis can cause severe illness if treatment is delayed. This, however, is rare. Signs and symptoms can include:
- Respiratory failure
- Bleeding Problems
- Organ failure
How is Anaplasmosis Diagnosed?
A variety of tests are used to diagnose tick-borne disease are used. In fact, your veterinarian likely has a special test kit called a Snap 4DX. This test kit can also diagnose heartworms and other disease.
Having your dog accurately diagnosed earlier rather than later is vital. Most dogs will recover with treatment. However, dogs with weakened immune systems may be at higher risk.
Other tests include, blood tests, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
For more information on the ELISA testing procedure, read: Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay by Vetsream.com
How Anaplasmosis in Dogs is Treated
It can take several weeks to get test results back. If the vet suspects your dog has tick-borne disease, he/she will will likely prescribe Doxycycline, one of the most common antibiotics used.
Of course, the type of antibiotic chosen will depend on the tick-borne disease.
The good news is that clinical signs seem to resolve quickly. In fact, dogs usually show great improvement within 24 to 48 hours from the start of antibiotics. Prognosis for these dogs is excellent.
As always, make sure to follow the veterinarian instructions and complete the full course of antibiotics.
Doxycycline and rickettsial diseases
Doxycycline is the most effective treatment of all rickettsial diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. In fact, studies have shown that other antibiotics do not work as well.
Side Effects of Doxycycline for Dogs
Doxycycline is a potent antibiotic that could be hard on the liver. It should not be given to pregnant dogs or dogs with underlying conditions that affect the liver.
When given to a pregnant dog, there is a risk of bone abnormalities and teeth discoloration in developing fetuses.
Doxycycline has interactions with a variety of other medications and supplements. This is why it’s so important to let your veterinarian know of all OTC vitamins and/or supplements you may be giving your dog.
Common side effects may include:
- difficulty swallowing or breathing
Nausea can be eased by administering the medication with food. Any severe gastrointestinal problems should be brought to the veterinarian’s attention.
5 No-Fail Ways to Preventing Tick-Borne Disease in Dogs
Long gone are the days of trying to wrestle bad tasting medicine into your dog’s mouth. These days, there are many types of tick prevention including tasty chewable “treats”. While there is always a risk of tick-borne disease in endemic areas, there are things you can do to minimize the risk.
#1. Avoid Long Grass
Ticks attach themselves to dogs (and people) by standing on the edge of blades of grass. When you or your dog walk by, the tick latches on. Spring and fall are times of high tick activity, so try to avoid fields during this time.
Note: Ticks can also be found in long blades of grass along ditches beside the road.
#2. Do A Thorough Tick Check
If your dog has been out and about, do a tick check. It might not seem important if your dog is already on a tick control program, but it is! Ticks don’t necessarily embed into the skin right away. You may find one before it has become attached.
By getting rid of ticks before they attach, you may be saving another animal in the house from the tick bite, or yourself.
#3. Maintain an Aggressive Tick Control Program
Ask your veterinarian for suggestions on tick control medications.
The treatment plan for your dog may not be the same as another dog’s plan. Some tick preventatives are by prescription only.
Other options include topical formulas that work up to a month to prevent flea and tick bites from occurring.
A few professional faves include:
K9 Advantix II Flea and Tick Prevention
FrontLine Plus Flea and Tick Treatment
The treatment plan for your dog may not be the same as another dog’s plan. Some tick preventatives are by prescription only. This is a good thing! It means your veterinarian will have a chance to look over your dog.
#4. Keep Your Dog Groomed
By keeping your dog groomed (either by a professional dog groomer or by doing it yourself), you’ll be better able to find ticks on the skin. Ticks are pros at hiding and they can be difficult to spot.
TIP: Ticks sometimes hide in the warm, fleshy parts of dogs. Check in the ears, behind the ears, and around the neck.
#5. Properly Remove Embedded Ticks
Removing ticks is not a pleasant job but it must be done. There are lots of tick-removal tools on the market. However, if you have a pair of tweezers nearby that will do the trick.
It’s really important to remove a tick properly, otherwise you risk leaving the tick’s head embedded in the skin.
To learn more about the proper removal of ticks read: Tick Removal – Animal Medical Hospital
Summing it UP
Ticks are nothing to sneeze at. These creatures can wreck havoc in the body leaving a trail of acute and chronic disease. Unfortunately, tick-borne disease is on the rise without signs of slowing.
Not all ticks are infected with disease, but it’s best to assume they are. Dogs can pick up ticks anywhere…not just in fields and forest. They can pick them up from other dogs at the park, in kennels, or even at another person’s house.
The most obvious place to find ticks is in tall grass, but it’s best to be ready to see them anywhere. Protect your dog with a veterinarian recommended tick control program.
It used to be that you could get away with seasonal protection. These days, that’s just not the case. Ticks can survive all winter long in some places.
Remember, just because your dog has no symptoms doesn’t mean he/she isn’t ill. Avoid ticks for the long haul and keep your dog well protected.
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Tick-borne Disease: Prevalence Prevention, and Treatment. Peer Reviewed, American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation