Many of us were very pleased to cruise through this past winter without having to shovel snow, thaw out car door locks, spread salt or worry about someone falling on ice. However, it seems like there is always a price to pay for having it easy. In this case, we all realize how a very mild winter affects the population of insects for the upcoming summer.
Most likely, this summer will be one of the worse insect overpopulations in a very long time. The past winter never really killed off many insects. Mosquitoes, ants, spiders, aphids, bees and wasps are just a few common nuisance insects that affect all of us. Additionally, pets will be exposed to an increase in the population of fleas and ticks.
Fleas certainly cause plenty of discomfort for many pets. Ticks, however, are currently on the rise and responsible for carrying several serious diseases. The most recent research of ticks and their life cycle show an increase in their numbers as well as their specific territories. There are several different types or species of ticks. Some types of ticks are known to exist primarily in one region of the country, but the recent studies show that these ticks are spreading out of their normal territory.
The spread of territory for ticks has been charted for the past several years and has little to do with the mild weather this past year. Studies continue to determine the exact cause for the increase in tick populations. Regardless, the consequences for pets can be very detrimental if they contract one or more of the serious diseases that ticks carry.
First of all, ticks are known to carry at least 15 different pathogens they may be transmitted to animals and humans. Most notably is Lyme disease. Because of national media attention, Lyme disease is fairly well known to the general public. Additionally, due to an increase in positive cases of Lyme disease in people, pet owners are more aware of the disease potentially infecting their dogs.
For pet owners, although Lyme disease is the most common and prevalent disease carried by ticks, it has not been found to cause any disease in cats. However, dogs are extremely susceptible to Lyme disease and experience more exposure to ticks. The typical symptoms of a dog with Lyme disease may vary greatly, but a high fever typically occurs most of the time. Other symptoms include decreased appetite, listlessness, and lameness. Commonly Lyme disease causes inflammation of the joints and subsequently soreness and lameness.
Another fairly common disease transmitted by ticks is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). Once again, this is a tick-borne disease that can affect both humans and pets. This disease typically is found in the eastern United States. The most common and often only symptom of RMSF in dogs is running a high fever. The history or presence of ticks on a dog is often the only other helpful hint in suspecting the disease or making a diagnosis of this particular tick-borne disease.
Yet another very common tick-transmitted disease is called Ehrlichiosis. This is a common disease that many pet owners aren’t aware of. It is certainly a disease that is on the rise and beginning to receive more recognition. Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis include high fever, lethargy, pale gums, and generalized weakness. The disease causes significant anemia or low blood count that is responsible for most of the symptoms.
It is easy to see how difficult these tick-borne diseases are to diagnose just from a physical exam because the signs and symptoms are few and vague. The symptoms are common with hundreds of other diseases. Fortunately, simple and quick tests have been developed to make it much easier and more accurate to definitively diagnose.
Also, these diseases can be successfully treated with fairly inexpensive medications especially if diagnosed early in the disease process. However, many pets will have the disease for a long time before ever showing symptoms. That’s why prevention of ticks becomes extremely important.
Currently, Lyme disease is the only tick transmitted disease that can be prevented with a vaccine. Tick prevention is the only course of action for preventing most tick borne diseases. Ticks are on the rise and coupled with such a mild winter this past year; it is evident that we need to take measures to prevent ticks and subsequently tick transmitted diseases.
Fortunately, there are some effective products for pets to help prevent ticks from transmitting diseases.
However, none of the products completely stop all ticks from getting on and attaching to your pets.
Therefore, it is still important to closely examine your pets for the presence of ticks, especially if they have been in the woods or areas of weeds and tall grass.
If your pet shows any symptoms of a tick transmitted disease, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life!