Pet parents would know of a common affliction among dogs: ticks. What are ticks? They are “obligate ectoparasites” that tend to spend their entire lifecycle on a host. They are found all over the world and can cause a lot of damage.
According to Dr Lalit Kenjale and Dr Aishwarya, veterinary officers at Wiggles, most infectious diseases present today generally arise from zoonotic pathogens that are often transmitted by tick vectors. “Rhipicephalus and haemaphysalis are the most common types of ticks that are found in India,” they say.
What should pet parents know about symptoms of ticks and tick fever?
According to the doctors, ticks infest cracks and crevices in the house and end up on a dog’s skin. “Once they attach themselves to the host, they multiply and cause many protozoal infections through bites. Some of the major symptoms are extensive erythrocytic lysis — a process by which red blood cells rupture, leading to anemia, jaundice and hemoglobinuria (hemoglobin in the urine). The signs of infection slowly become severe depending on the immune system of the dog,” they caution.
The doctors add that in the short term, the dogs develop:
– Swelling of the lymph nodes throughout the body
– Enlargement of the spleen
– Decrease in the number of platelets in the bloodstream
Other symptoms include:
– Loss of appetite
– Loss of stamina
– Reluctance to walk
– Swelling in the limbs or scrotum
– Difficulty in breathing
“Most short-term cases are seen in the warmer months when ticks are most active. During this phase, chances of fatality are rare and the infected dog may recover spontaneously,” the vets say.
What are long-term infections?
Even after they have recovered, there is still a chance the dogs/s may develop long-term diseases, whose signs and symptoms depend on which organs have been affected, such as,
. Enlargement of the spleen
. Kidney failure
. Inflammation of the lungs, eye, brain, and spinal cord
“If the brain and spinal cord are involved, there may be problems with the nervous system, such as lack of coordination, depression, partial paralysis, and increased sensitivity to a normally painless touch,” the experts explain.
Other symptoms, they say, are:
* Severe weight loss during tick infections
* Abnormally-low levels of platelets or other blood cells, meaning blood clots are slower leading to bleeding from the nose, blood in the urine or stool, or abnormal bruising on their skin or gums
Identification and prevention
According to the vets, laboratory tests like blood smear examination, blood tests, and molecular diagnosis in the form of PCR can be done to identify a tick infection. Tick fever, they say, can be treated with antibiotics like tetracycline and particularly doxycycline. “To treat anemia, a blood transfusion or other supportive fluid therapies can be recommended.”
As a pet parent, you can prevent your dog from developing tick fever by:
1. Keeping them away from grassy and moist areas.
2. Using preventive medications such as ticks and flea spot-on.
3. Any ticks found on your dog should be promptly and properly removed using tweezers.