If you live in Wisconsin you’re probably all too familiar with these pesky little creatures called ticks. If you’re not familiar with them, let us fill you in. They suck! Literally, they feed on blood from a host animal. They can be found in wooded areas, areas with tall grass, and areas where woodland creatures walk through. This means if you have squirrels or rabbits in your yard there is a strong possibility that you also have ticks. They even seem to find their way into the city where streets are lined with sidewalks and mini malls. So, why does this matter? Aren’t they just another bug? The answer is no. Ticks carry a number of different diseases that can affect your dog, your cat, or even you. Maybe you’ve heard of Lyme disease- transmitted by ticks. Maybe you’ve hear of Anaplasmosis-also transmitted by ticks. Both diseases are caused by a bacterium that gets into the bloodstream of a host (dog) via the bite of a vector (tick). In 2015, the CDC reports, that Lyme disease was the 6th most common notifiable disease. Statistics gathered by the CDC also show that 95% of all reported cases came from only 14 different states, Wisconsin being one of them. These statistics do not take into account the dogs and cats that are also diagnosed with tick borne illnesses each year.
What to Watch For
Tick borne illnesses can present themselves in many different ways. In people it is typically diagnosed in the early stages by finding a bull’s eye rash pattern. Unfortunately with dogs and cats we cannot rely on this method as they do not develop the typical rash. We can; however, rely on caregivers who notice joint pain, limping, and not wanting to eat. With that clinical history, and a fever upon physical exam, a tall red flag for Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis goes up.
The Good News
Although tick borne illnesses are common in the Midwest, there is a silver lining to a positive diagnosis. Because these diseases are so common, doctors and veterinarians know how to handle them. Often times they can be treated with a course of prescribed antibiotics and maybe some anti-inflammatory meds. There are some occasions where the disease may have progressed, and treatment becomes much more difficult.
The other silver lining, there is preventative. Talk to your veterinarian to find the right tick product for your animal’s lifestyle. There are many different products on the market, and although they have the same end goal in mind, some may not be ideal for your situation. Tick prevention is recommended year round, even in Wisconsin. Weather is unpredictable, and let’s face it, nobody knows that better than us Wisconsinites. We’ve been known to experience a year’s worth of seasons in a single week. You don’t want to be caught without protection when we get a heat wave in the middle of January. Plus you never know if the winter is going to be a warmer one or not. If the temperature is hovering around freezing, the ticks will be out looking for a meal. Most veterinary clinics in Tick-USA also carry a Lyme vaccine that can be dosed annually in dogs. Although effective, nothing is a 100% guarantee. In addition to the vaccine and preventatives, your eyes are another way you can help prevent tick borne illnesses. If you’ve been running through the woods, or playing in a field, after you’ve checked yourself over, make sure to do the same for your four-legged furry friend. If you don’t know what these little buggers look like, or how to tell them apart, check out this awesome link for help with identification.
Tick borne illnesses can happen to anyone. If you have concerns about your critter being affected by ticks please see your veterinarian. Want to know more? Paw Health Network will have more to come on ticks in the next lesson.
Lyme Disease. (2016, December 19). Retrieved June 12, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/index.html
TickEncounter Resource Center. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2017, from http://www.tickencounter.org/tickspotters