It’s easy to get ticked off about ticks—these tiny, but tenacious, arachnids carry a host of serious bacterial and protozoal infections and diseases that can make your pet seriously ill. Fortunately, year-round flea and tick prevention from Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland can put a stop to these creepy-crawling criminals and give you powerful peace of mind.Here are the most common questions we receive about tick-borne diseases in pets, and our answers.
Question: What tick-borne diseases are transmissible to pets?
Answer: Tick-borne diseases that affect dogs and cats can range in severity from mildly debilitating to life-threatening. Many diseases can also affect humans, although these can only be transmitted by an infected tick’s bite—pets cannot spread tick-borne illnesses to humans.
The most common tick-borne diseases in southeast Texas include:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Tick paralysis
Q: How are tick-borne diseases transmitted to pets?
A: Tick-borne diseases are transmitted through infective saliva when the tick bites and feeds on a vulnerable pet. This feeding (i.e., blood meal) is necessary for the tick’s survival and maturation.
Fortunately for pets, ticks attach and feed slowly and must be attached at least 24 to 36 hours before infectious bacteria or protozoa are transmitted. Preventive products take advantage of this wide time window by killing ticks quickly, usually 4 to 12 hours after attachment and before disease transmission begins.
Question: Where would my pet encounter ticks?
A: Ticks can be found throughout southeast Texas. Adult and nymph (i.e., seed) ticks emerge in early spring to feed, molt, and mate, and then experience a second activity surge from August to November. Despite their preference for warmer seasons, these industrious arachnids can also emerge from dormancy on mild winter days, so year-round protection is essential for all pets.
Ticks are most prevalent in wooded areas, grassy fields, and leafy or brush-covered spaces. Questing ticks can also travel indoors on clothing, shoes, bags, or other pets, which puts indoor-only pets at risk for tick-borne diseases.
Question: How are tick-borne diseases diagnosed in pets?
A: Each tick-borne disease causes its own clinical signs that range from fever and lymph node enlargement to joint stiffness or extreme weakness and anemia. Collectively, affected pets appear visibly unwell, while others may be completely asymptomatic and show no signs. If your Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland veterinarian suspects your pet is suffering from a tick-borne illness, they will perform a complete physical examination and may recommend additional tests, including:
- Tick-borne screening test
- Tick-specific blood work
- Complete blood count and general chemistry
- Diagnostic imaging (e.g., X-rays or ultrasound)
These tests not only provide a conclusive tick-borne disease diagnosis, but also help rule out numerous other conditions that cause similar signs.
Q: Are tick-borne diseases treatable in pets?
A: Early diagnosis is the best way to ensure your pet has a good prognosis. While most common tick-borne diseases are treatable, delayed treatment can lead to permanent organ damage and rare conditions (e.g., tularemia, cytauxzoonosis) that can be fatal.
Treatment will vary, but typically includes a prolonged antibiotic regimen to clear the disease-causing organism. Pets who experience significant clinical illness or disease-related complications may require additional treatments or hospitalization.
Q: How can I protect my pet from tick-borne diseases?
A: If you’ve ever found a tick hiding on your body or on your pet, you know these tiny pests are masters at evading detection. Their nearly imperceptible movements and impressive hiding skills require a multi-step defense system that includes:
- Year-round flea and tick prevention — Products are available in oral or topical formulas with monthly or quarterly dosing.
- Annual testing for dogs — This test screens your dog for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis.
- Lyme vaccine for dogs — Vaccination can provide high-risk dogs (e.g., hunting, sporting, or working dogs who are frequently outdoors) with additional protection.
- Environmental management — Discourage ticks by maintaining your pet’s outdoor areas (e.g., trim grass, remove weeds and brush).
- Tick removal — Check your pet for ticks after outdoor activity. Focus on the ticks’ preferred hiding places, including the abdomen, armpits, face, and ears. Use tweezers to remove attached ticks.
Protect your pet from tick-y situations all year long with a safe and effective parasite prevention protocol and comprehensive wellness care at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Nederland. Contact our team to schedule your pet’s next appointment.
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