Ticks are becoming increasingly more common parasites that can be found anywhere, from the deep woods to urban parks, or even along the sidewalk, bike path, or in your own backyard! Each year, thousands of dogs become infected with serious diseases transmitted by a number of different ticks. Illnesses spread by ticks are known as vector-borne or tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and others. The risks they pose to your dog can be minimized with preventive measures (oral or topical medications, tick collars, etc.) and annual checkups with your veterinarian that include tick-borne disease screening, such as the Accuplex Heartworm Plus test offered at Sheridan Animal Hospital. This is especially important, as symptoms of tick-borne disease are often vague, non-specific, and difficult to recognize, causing many pet owners to not even know that their dog is suffering from a debilitating tick-borne disease until it is too late.
Fortunately, the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Sheridan Animal Hospital is here to help ensure that your pet stays protected and disease-free! Stick with me and I’ll share some helpful tips and information about tick-borne disease and how to keep your dog safe. When you know more about the risks, you can help keep your best friend happy, healthy and tick-free, like me!
Throughout the United States and Canada, there are a number of disease-carrying ticks that can spread serious illness to your pet. Some ticks are known to carry more than one disease, which can lead to multiple infections, or co-infection, that can complicate treatment and lead to greater health risks for your pet. The most common ticks in our area are the Deer Tick, the Brown Dog Tick, and the American Dog Tick. While typically, the Lone Star Tick, the Gulf Coat Tick, and the Western Black Legged Tick are more common in other areas of the country, with the growth of white-tailed deer and wild turkey populations, tick populations and geographic distribution of ticks have expanded, and we may be seeing these populations in our area as well.
In addition to Lyme disease, ticks also carry ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and others. There is simply no way for you to tell if a tick is carrying disease or not, and it only takes one tick bite to infect your dog with a potentially life-threatening disease. Symptoms of tick-borne diseases are often vague, non-specific, and difficult to recognize. “Humans and other non-canine family members can also become infected with the same tick-borne diseases as dogs. These cross-species diseases are known as zoonotic. So, if you live in an area with ticks or if you’ve ever found a tick on your dog, you should also be sure to check yourself and your family.”
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) reports nearly 303,000 positive Lyme disease cases in dogs in the United States in 2017, with over 38,000 of those cases coming from New York State. This number continues to rise each year. In Erie County alone, the number or Lyme disease cases has doubled over the past 5 years. The increasing prevalence of Lyme disease is a concern for dogs and humans alike. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) note Lyme disease as the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States.
Facts about Lyme disease:
- Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks carry this bacterium and can facilitate its spread to dogs, humans and other species
- Common clinical signs of the disease include fever, lethargy swollen joints, lameness, and decreased appetite
- In as many as 90% of infected dogs, clinical signs of Lyme disease will not be readily apparent
- In some cases, infection can also lead to a serious, multi-system illness and in some cases, even a fatal kidney disease called Lyme nephritis
Given the increase of confirmed Lyme and other tick-borne disease cases, we at Sheridan Animal Hospital in accordance with CAPC guidelines recommend that all pets be maintained year-round on highly effective parasitacide medications to kill disease spreading ticks. There are numerous products and medications available to keep ticks off your dog. The staff at Sheridan Animal Hospital recommends the use of either one of two highly effective oral tick (and flea) preventatives called Bravecto and Simparica. Bravecto is an oral chew that is FDA approved, safe and effective for dogs over 6 months of age and weighing over 4.4lb. Bravecto starts killing fleas within 2 hours and ticks within 12 hours; and, a single dose will provide your dog with 8-12 weeks of protection depending on tick species!Compare Bravecto and Simparica
Simparica is also an oral chew that is for dogs over 6 months of age, weighing over 2.8 lbs and is administered monthly. Simparica starts killing fleas within 3 hours and ticks within 8 hours! My Mom wouldn’t trust my health and prevention from disease carrying ticks to any other products on the market.
As part of Lyme disease prevention, in addition to tick control with oral parasiticide medications, we now have available a new Lyme disease vaccination that is proven to be more effective at Lyme disease prevention than any other previous vaccine available. Vaccination against Lyme disease does not replace the need for stringent tick-control programs in pets, but should be thought of as an adjunctive, “safety net” so to speak in case of tick control and prevention failure.
The new Lyme disease vaccine has been uniquely designed to help provide broad coverage and a safe vaccination experience for your dog. This vaccine is unlike any other Lyme disease vaccine on the market. For this reason, dogs that have been vaccinated against Lyme disease previously will require an initial series of two vaccinations followed by a yearly booster vaccine. This is to help ensure the best possible immunity and protection for your pet.
I am protected with the new Lyme disease vaccine and my Mom makes sure that I always receive my oral parasiticide medication on time. If you have questions regarding your dog’s tick control program and Lyme disease vaccination history, please contact the veterinary medical professional staff at Sheridan Animal Hospital for advice.
And let’s not forget about our feline friends, who may be at risk for contracting tick-borne diseases too! There is now a Bravecto topical for cats available to protect your furry feline friend from the wrath of those nasty ticks too! Ask your veterinarian for more information on Bravecto for cats.
Additional Resources for More Information on Ticks and Lyme Disease: