Ticks….eew! Nobody likes to think about them, but they are out there. And they love to attach to people and animals for a blood meal.
In the past, ticks have been a seasonal problem for Ohio. However, that is no longer the case. There are ticks that have life stages that are active even in the cold winter months in Ohio, putting people and their pets at risk of tick encounters all year long. And each tick encounter carries the chance of introducing a tick-borne illness.
In the past, the big tick disease everyone talked about was Lyme disease, which is carried by the Black-Legged tick (also known as the deer tick). However, we are now seeing more Anaplasmosis (also carried by the Black-Legged tick, Ehrlichia (carried by the Lone Star tick and the Brown Dog tick), and more recently, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, carried by the American Dog Tick in Ohio.
Symptoms for these diseases are similar, including lameness/limping (it can often move from leg to leg), fever, swollen joints, painful joints, depression, and appetite loss. Untreated, these diseases can move on to affect internal organs and eventually, cause death.
At Suburban Animal Clinic, we recommend yearly heartworm testing, and our test also tests for Lyme, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichia. This is a great screening tool to monitor your pet yearly for some of these tick-borne illnesses. Typically if a pet shows up positive for one of these, it’s a surprise, as they have come in with no concerns just needing routine preventative care. That shows how sneaky ticks can be in attaching to and infecting their hosts.
Dogs who come in with the symptoms listed above may have additional blood work done to evaluate their blood cells, internal organ function, and perhaps even a panel to check for a variety of tick-borne illnesses. These can be treated with antibiotics and supportive care, however, it is possible the dog may continue to have symptom flare ups during its life.
How can you help prevent these tick-borne illnesses?
Do regular tick checks! After every visit outside, especially walks in the woods or area parks, check your dog and yourself for ticks. Check between the toes, armpits, groin, around the face and ears…these are common places for ticks to hide on dogs.
Get your dog the Lyme vaccine! This is the only tick-borne disease that can be prevented by vaccination. We typically recommend the Lyme vaccine for dogs who live in the woods or frequent the woods and large fields while camping, hunting, etc. The initial vaccine is a series of 2 injections given 3-4 weeks apart, then boostered annually.
Use tick prevention! Not all tick prevention is created equal. There are awesome products on the market for flea and tick prevention, from chewables, to topicals, to long lasting collars. Each product works differently and has a different speed of kill, so no one product will work for every pet. Oral products do require the tick to bite the pet, while topicals and collars begin to work then the tick comes into contact with the pet. So for the dog who takes the occasional walk at the park, the oral prevention would probably be fine. For the dog who hunts in the fields, or goes camping every weekend, or lives near an area known for ticks, a topical or collar would be a better choice.
Why is speed of kill important? Because each tick-borne disease requires the tick to feed for a different amount of time in order to transmit the disease. Some diseases can transmit in as little as 6-10 hours, while others take 24-48 hours of a tick feeding to spread the disease. This is something to consider when choosing a tick product for your pet.
Suburban Animal Clinic recommends the following products:
For Dogs: Nexgard (oral flea and tick), Simparica Trio (oral heartworm, flea and tick), Vectra 3D (topical flea and tick), K9 Advantix (topical flea and tick), Seresto Collar (collar works for up to 8 months for fleas and ticks).
For Cats: Revolution Plus (topical heartworm, flea and tick), Frontline Plus (topical flea and tick), Seresto Collar (collar works up to 8 months for fleas and ticks).
Ask your veterinarian to recommend a tick product for your pet.