Ticks are Lurking

posted: by: Tammy Chastain D.V.M. Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

I have talked with several clients during visits to our office recently about my fear that this will be a bad year for ticks.  With the mild winter that we had, my concern is that we will see an increase in parasites in general.  Ticks particularly worry me more than some.  We will explore some of the reasons later.  Recently my boys and I have taken a few hikes in the woods.  We have yet to come back without an encounter with a tick on at least one of us.  Below is a picture of my son's grubby hand, and look who tried to hitch a ride.

At the clinic we have had several dogs and cats come in with ticks attached.  They don't necessarily favor those patients that spend the majority of their time outside.  It is a myth that a pet that spends most of their time inside cannot be exposed.

Why are ticks so worrisome?  Well, there are several reasons, but here are a few.

1.)  Due to the tiny size of the immature life-stages, they can go unnoticed.  The larval and nymph stages are so tiny, you may never know they have attached.  When pet owners tell me they haven't seen ticks on their pets, more than likely it is assumed that they would be easily visible.  I could not say with certainty that my own pets haven't had one on them.  Take a look at the comparative sizes on the chart below.  I would be hard pressed to say that anyone could easily find the smaller immature stages underneath a dense coat of fur.

2.)  They carry harmful and sometimes deadly diseases.  While fleas can cause skin irritation and allergy flare-ups, ticks are much more likely to transmit debilitating and life-threatening illnesses.  Lyme, Ehrilichia, and Anaplasma are a few diseases that we can see as a result of tick exposure. We have seen patients with some of these at our practice.  They can cause a myriad of problems including kidney failure, destruction or lack of production of red and white blood cells, as well as chronic fever or lameness to name a few.  Some of these conditions are also potential risks for humans.  While most of them are not directly transmissible between our pets and us, the ticks that carry them can be.

3.)  The above diseases and the ticks that carry them are migrating closer to us.  Scientists and veterinarians have been following and mapping these parasites for years.  The trend is that the ticks and the diseases they carry are becoming more widespread and more likely now than ever before to be in your backyard.  Visit the companion animal parasite council website that has interactive maps to see the prevalence (down to individual counties) of ticks and tick-borne diseases in Indiana.

So what do we do to help combat this enemy?

The answer is regular tick protection for every pet.  Fortunately, there are a lot of good options available.  Some of our favorites include Nexgard (monthly chewable) or the monthly topicals, Frontline Gold, or Vectra.  It is also important to groom and examine your pets regularly.  Most of the tick-borne diseases require the tick to be attached for a period of time before transmission, so the earlier it is killed or removed the better.  Stop by or call the clinic today.  Someone will be happy to talk with you about appropriate protection for your pet.