Tick Fever: is your pet infected?
Responsible pet parents take great efforts to ensure that their fur babies are happy and healthy. We keep track of vaccination records and deworming dates and if anything seems out of sorts we immediately rush them to the vet. We keep a track of their eating habits. And it may seem strange to a passerby when we stop and take a quick glance when they have finished their business, just to check if everything is as it should be.
A major problem shared by many pet parents is ticks. How to keep them at bay is definitely one of the most discussed issues. Tick collars, spot-on treatments, medicated baths… the list is endless. We do all this and sometimes one nasty sneaky fellow still finds its way into their fur and latches on. Ok so what’s the big deal? All dogs gets ticks from time to time. Is it really worth making such a big deal?
Sadly the answer is YES!! Tick fever, cases of which are seriously on the rise these days, is a notoriously difficult disease to diagnose and if left untreated, can prove to be fatal. Tick fever is transmitted when an infected tick latches on to the skin. Most studies state that it takes between 24 to 48 hours for an infected tick to transfer this disease into the body of a healthy canine or feline.
Tick fever is a common name given to two medical conditions – Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasma platys. Anaplasma refers to the condition when the platelet count in the body drops down to critically low levels. The Ehrlichia bacteria specifically targets the white blood cell count. Tick fever is diagnosed by the means of a blood test where all these parameters are checked. It is one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose on account of the fact that the symptoms can vary drastically with each case. Common symptoms can include some if not all of the following:
-Loss of appetite and weight loss
-Blood in the urine or stools ( or very dark stool)
-Blood dripping from orifices such as the nose and ears and anus
-Coughing or retching
-Discharge from the eyes and nose
-Enlarged lymph nodes
-Inflammation in the eyes
-Appearance of bruises or marks on the skin
-Vomiting and diarrhoea
-Neurological symptoms ( unco-ordination, paralysis, in worst cases – seizures)
It is very likely that a few of the symptoms might appear together. For many pet parents, alarm bells might not necessarily go off if their pet skips a meal from time to time. Or has an occasional bout of fever or lethargy. That tends to happen from time to time. What makes tick fever so dangerous is this exact vagueness of symptoms. Ok so your pet has lost some weight recently or is taking longer naps in the afternoon. Isn’t that normal generally? In many cases, the disease graduates to more serious symptoms such as bleeding from orifices. Which is when the panic begins.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
You are the best judge of your pet’s habits and daily routine. So, if you notice something different about your pet – a change in eating habits, fever, reluctance to eat, weight loss, dark stool etc, contact your vet immediately and have a thorough blood test conducted. The detailed blood test will spell out which parameters are normal and which indicate tick fever. Low levels of platelets as well as white blood cells need to be examined especially. Some studies suggest that the combination of critically low levels of platelets as well as white blood cells can also lead to seizures.
Depending of the severity as well as the progression of the disease, the vet is likely to prescribe Doxycycline, an antibiotic used to treat the tick fever bacteria. Along with this, medication to increase the quality of the blood will also be given. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions. As a responsible pet parent, you should know exactly what each medication, injection or blood test is for. Please also ensure you get periodic blood tests for your pet to ensure that their counts are increasing.
The treatment is most likely to be continued for four to six weeks. If you have other pets in the house please also get them tested for tick fever. You never know who else might be infected even if they are not showing symptoms. Luckily this disease is not contagious as in transferable to other pets or other humans in the household. Basically that only infected ticks spread the disease.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a vaccine for the prevention of tick fever. All you can do is make use of tick repellents. Tick collars, spot on treatments, anti-tick sprays, shampoos and powders and medicated baths are some of the preventative measures you can make use of. Just keep a regular grooming routine. Checking their paws and coat, especially after walks is of utmost importance. Ticks are especially prevalent in our warm climate and will most definitely be around all year long. So making this a regular ritual will only help prevent this horrible disease.
So please keep an eye out for these troublesome ticks. PREVENTION in this case is a thousand times better than the cure! Happy pet parenting and keep checking those coats!