Within the last few weeks, if you have spent any time outdoors, you may have noticed the amount of ticks outside. My dogs can’t go outside for a quick potty break without coming back in with a tick or two crawling on them! Maybe it’s normal, maybe I’m noticing it more this year like everything else or maybe it’s just "par for the course" for 2020. That got me thinking…. I know my dogs are protected from ticks and tick borne disease as best they can be, but are yours?
Ticks are tiny, blood-sucking parasites that are part of the arachnid family and can cause some major disease in humans and animals. There are many different ticks that transmit many different diseases but the most common in our area is the Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis), also known as the "black-legged tick", known to transmit Lyme disease, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Babesia and the more recently observed Powassan virus. Unfortunately, many of us suffer from tick borne disease without ever knowing we were bitten. The same goes for our furry four-legged friends.
Ticks are out all year round, even in the winter. Many people believe that ticks go dormant during winter and that they are safe from these tiny parasites, but the truth of the matter is that these tough little arachnids can survive very harsh conditions, even without nourishment for over a year. In freezing temperatures, the ticks will find shelter and hunker down but are technically still active. Anytime over freezing temperature, the adult ticks resurface and search for a host. The last few winters we have had some days exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the perfect climate for ticks, even in the dead of winter. The moral of the story here is to keep your pets on flea and tick protection throughout the entire year.
There are many different versions of flea and tick prevention depending on your pet and your own comfort level. There are collars such as Seresto that have excellent tick protection and repellant activity and are effective for up to eight months. There are also many different topical medications that have great tick prevention and repellant properties, which are usually effective for a month. Finally, more recently we have seen the development of some great oral flea and tick preventatives that range from one to three months of coverage per dose.
Another preventative measure for Lyme disease in dogs is the Lyme vaccine. Vaccines in general are a hot topic for many people but your veterinarian can help you decide if this is right for you and your pets. It is especially important for pets that spend any time outdoors. It is worth noting that this vaccine is only for Lyme disease, and not other tick borne diseases. The vaccine targets specific outer surface proteins (OspA and OspC) on the Lyme organism itself (Borrelia burgdorferi), and helps prevent transmission from the infected tick to vaccinated dogs. There are a few different Lyme vaccines on the market that have different outer surface protein variability but all are helpful at building an immune response to the Lyme organism and helping control the amount of dogs infected. A vaccinated dog can still contract Lyme disease from an infected tick but the vaccination gives the dog the ability to develop a better immune response, therefore making the clinical symptoms usually much less severe. Most symptomatic dogs are treated with antibiotics and do well, but, in some dogs, Lyme disease can be fatal. In severe cases, dogs produce a massive immune response where antibodies are caught in the filter mechanism of the kidney. This can cause irreversible kidney failure and eventually death.
One in every sixteen dogs is positive for Lyme across the United States and you can be sure that statistic is higher in endemic areas like ours. So please make sure you are doing everything possible to keep your dogs safe from those pesky little ticks that can wreak havoc on you and your pet.
Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us by phone at 845-876-6008, or by e-mail at [email protected].
Thank you for choosing us to be part of your pet's healthcare team!
With warmest regards,
Your friends at Rhinebeck Animal Hospital