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Tick encephalitis on the nose of the dog. A dangerous insect a carrier of the disease

As the temperature rises, more and more cases of dogs coming to Pet Connection full of ticks and concomitant diseases caused by these insects. We feel responsible toward our community as any tick, small or big, can cause several issues in your dog.

If you have a dog in Dubai, you already know about ticks & you know how they look like. There are approximately 850 species of ticks worldwide and, for sure, our veterinarians at Pet Connection can give you advises about how to avoid them and take preventive actions during the year. However, many pets’ owners don’t know how dangerous these small insects are and how a simple tick can transmit many diseases to your small fluffy creature.

Have you ever heard about tick borne diseases in dogs?

The tick attaches itself to animal skin, feasting on the host’s blood. Infected ticks, however, can spread diseases to their host. Diagnosis of canine tick-borne diseases is based on blood analysis.

Thousands of canine tick-borne diseases are diagnosed annually. Many more go undiagnosed and therefore untreated. Though many tick-borne diseases exist, seven are considered more common than others.

How a tick looks like and how’s their live cycle?

Summer Is coming with dog ticks that are full of diseases! 1

Summertime is prime time for blood-sucking ticks, and your pets are walking targets for these arachnids to attach to and feed from. In order to prevent ticks and the potential diseases they carry; it helps to understand how these creatures develop.

Most hard ticks (most frequents found in dogs) require three different hosts to complete their development. During this development, ticks go through four stages of life. These stages are egg, larvae (or seed tick), nymph, and adult.

Summer Is coming with dog ticks that are full of diseases! 3

The female tick lays 4000-6500 eggs and then dies. The eggs hatch into seed ticks in 36-57 days (that means only two months!). The unfed larvae crawl in search of a host and can live 540 days without food (Waooo!  One and half year!). When they find an animal, the larvae attach and feed for approximately 5 days.

Ticks can’t jump, so they must find ways to attach to their hosts. They will use blades of grass and other vegetation to elevate themselves to the height where they can easily grasp onto passing animals such as small rodents or birds. Proximate biochemical signals, such as rising carbon dioxide levels emitted by a warm-blooded mammal, alert the ticks to passing hosts.

This procedure is called “questing,” and ticks use these behaviors to find their first host for an initial blood meal. After filling with blood over several days, the seed ticks fall to the ground again, where they molt (shed their outer skins) and become eight-legged nymphs.

The nymph will then lie in wait for a second host to attach to and engorge on blood. Following engorgement, nymphs drop to the ground where they molt yet again to finally become adult ticks. The adult ticks then go on a hunt for a third, even larger host, such as a dog, where they are able to feed and then breed, resulting in reproduction (i.e., eggs).

If you live an in area like Dubai, where ticks are prevalent, or if you are going to be taking your pet to a location that is known for ticks (e.g., wooded areas and open, grassy areas), protect your pet by applying a spot-on (Advantix), or a spray (Frontline) or a pill (Bravecto “up to three months’ protection”) to prevent ticks from making a meal out of your pet this summer.

Even with tick repellants, make sure to do a full inspection of your pet whenever s/he has been outside in an area known for harboring ticks. Vigilance is the best protection against tick borne diseases.

Table 1: Ticks commonly found on dogs and cats

TickCommon NameTick-associated Disease(s)
in Dogs and Cats*
Amblyomma americanumLone star tickEhrlichiosis, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis
Anblyomma maculatumGulf Coast tickHepatozoonosis
Dermacentor variabilisAmerican dog tickEhrlichiosis, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, cytauxzoonosis, tick paralysis
Dermacentor andersoniRocky Mountain wood tickRocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, cytauxzoonosis, tick paralysis
Ixodes scapularisEastern black-legged tick (deer tick)Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, tick paralysis
Ixodes pacificusWestern black-legged tickLyme disease, anaplasmosis
Rhipicephalus sanguineusBrown dog tickEhrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, hepatozoonosis, haemobartonellosis

What are the anatomical features of ticks?

All ticks have three pairs of legs during the immature stage and four pairs as an adult. They crawl but cannot fly since they have no wings. Ticks possess a sensory apparatus called ‘Haller’s organ.’ This structure senses odor, heat, and humidity. This is how the ticks locate their food source. They climb upon tall grass and when they sense an animal is close by, they crawl on.

What do ticks eat?

A tick’s diet consists of blood and only blood. The tick imbeds its mouthparts into the animal’s (or human’s) skin and sucks the blood. Except for the eggs, ticks require a blood meal to progress to each successive stage in their life cycle.

Don’t be left in the dark about vector-borne disease

In addition to Lyme disease, ticks also carry ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Babesia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and others. There’s simply no way for pet owners to tell if a tick is carrying disease or not, and it only takes one tick bite to infect your dog. Also, some ticks are known to carry more than one of these diseases, which can lead to multiple infections, or coinfection. What’s common among all vector-borne disease, however, is that symptoms can be vague and difficult to recognize. Often many pet owners don’t know their dog is suffering from a debilitating tick disease until it’s too late.

Humans and other non-canine family members can also become infected with the same tick-borne diseases as dogs. These cross-species diseases are known as zoonotic. So, if you live in an area with ticks or if you’ve ever found a tick on your dog, you should also be sure to check yourself and your family.

What diseases do ticks transmit and which ones are more frequent in this area?

Ticks can transmit or cause:

  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis (Piroplasmosis)
  • Cytauxzoonosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Haemobartonellosis in Dogs and Cats
  • Hepatozoonosis
  • Lyme Disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Tick Paralysis
  • Tularemia in Dogs and Cats

At Pet Connection, we frequently find:

  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis (Piroplasmosis)

Ehrlichiosis

This tick-borne disease exists globally and is one of the most common. It is caused by the bite of an infected brown dog tick. Signs of the illness include fever, decreased appetite and weight loss, depression, runny nose or watery eyes, respiratory distress, frequent bloody noses, and enlarged lymph nodes or limbs. Symptoms can also be delayed from infection. Antibiotics are usually given for up to four weeks to completely clear the organism. There is no vaccine available for ehrlichiosis.

Ehrlichiosis occurs in tropical and sub-tropical regions. It occurs over most of the range of its tick vector, the common brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), in Africa, the Middle East, east Asia, South East Asia, South America, the Caribbean and the USA (southern states and Hawaii). The disease has been suspected in northern Australia but has not been confirmed.

The dog and some species of wild Canidae are susceptible. Humans can become infected, but only through a tick bite. The disease cannot be spread directly from dogs to humans.

Anaplasmosis

Nicknamed “dog fever,” symptoms of this infection are similar to ehrlichiosis and include pain in the joints, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and possible nervous system disorders. Ticks carry the bacteria that transmit canine anaplasmosis. Both dogs and cats are at risk for this condition. Pets will usually begin to show signs of disease within a couple weeks after infection. Depending on the severity of the infection, oral antibiotics are given for up to a month for treatment.

Babesiosis (Piroplasmosis)

The dog tick and brown tick spread this disease. Anemia is the most common sign of infection. Babesiosis is found all around the globe.

Protozoa, those tiny single celled animal-like organisms, are to blame when dogs and cats are diagnosed with babesiosis. Ticks transmit the protozoan organism to animals and it sets itself up in the red blood cells, causing anemia. Signs of babesiosis in dogs are typically severe, including pale gums, depression, dark-colored urine, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. In severe cases, the dog may collapse suddenly and go into shock. Currently, no vaccine is available for protection from babesiosis.

Tick Paralysis

Tick paralysis is caused by a toxin secreted by ticks. The toxin affects the nervous system in mammals. Dogs affected become weak and limp, while cats don’t appear to have much trouble with the condition. Signs begin about a week after an animal is first bitten by ticks. It typically begins with a weakness in the rear legs, eventually involving all four limbs, followed by difficulty breathing and swallowing. Death may result if the condition progresses further. Depending on the severity of the condition, supportive treatment (e.g. breathing assistance) may be needed. So, yes, a tick can paralyze your dog!

Protect your pet!

So, how to prevent your dog to get ticks:

  1. Avoid taking your dog to areas of provably high infestation.
  2. Keep your dog protect by applying a spot-on (Advantix), or a spray (Frontline) or a pill (Bravecto “up to three months’ protection”)
  3. Always check your dog after coming from outdoor areas.

How to prevent your dog to get tick borne disease?

There is only one way and is avoiding that any tick bites your dog. From our experience, if your dog is living in Dubai and has a tick, the chance to get a tick-borne disease is high.

What happens is I found ticks in my dog? Should I check him/her for tick diseases?

Yes, we strongly recommend taking any measure to eliminate the ticks and test your dog. Early diagnosis and treatment carry the best prognosis.

Environment infestation.

As a female tick can lays 4000-6500 eggs, your house could suddenly be a miss, full of ticks everywhere. You can see them walking on the wall and even at the roof. If this happens to you, please, set an appointment with any pest control service supplier and call to Pet Connection for instructions. The health of your pet can be seriously jeopardized.

A final note:

At Pet Connection Veterinary Clinic, we accumulated years of experience preventing and controlling tick infestations, diagnosing and treating tick borne diseases. If you have any question or need help, please, do not hesitate in communicating with us.

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