According to the Centers for Disease Control, here is a rundown of the six serious tick-borne diseases in the United States affecting both pets and people:
• Anaplasmosis – Caused by a bacterium, this disease is transmitted primarily by the black-legged deer tick. Symptoms include headache, chills, muscle aches, lameness, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. It is more common in the Northeast and in California.
• Babesiosis – Caused by a protozoa, this disease infects red blood cells and triggers fever, anemia and weight loss. The deer tick is the primary transmitter of this disease that peaks during the warm months and is more common in the South.
• Ehrlichiosis – This is an umbrella term to represent a group of bacterial diseases caused by three different species, and is transmitted usually by the lone star tick and the brown dog tick. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle aches, fever and bleeding from the eyes. The lone star tick is more common in the Southeast.
• Lyme disease – This bacterial infection, left undetected, can cause severe joint damage, heart problems, kidney failure and neurological problems. It is primarily transmitted by the deer tick. Lyme disease is more prevalent in the Northeast, but cases of Lyme disease in dogs have been reported in all 48 contiguous states. A vaccine is available to protect dogs against Lyme disease, so consult your veterinarian.
• Rocky Mountain spotted fever – This disease is caused by a bacterium and transmitted by the bites from the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and the brown dog tick. Dogs and cats who have become infected may develop fever, headache, vomiting, muscle pain and abdominal pain as well as a rash. Some pets have stiffness when attempting to walk. Populations of the brown dog tick are in every one of the 48 contiguous states.
• Tularemia – Informally known as “rabbit fever,” this disease, is caused by a bacterium. As its name implies, tularemia is found in rabbits and rodents and transmitted to pets through bites by the American dog tick, most populated in the Midwest and Eastern part of the country. Symptoms can include a low fever, loss of appetite and listlessness.
Prevention is a better step to not acquiring tick borne diseases, which includes keeping your pet on year-round flea and tick control. And always check yourself and your pet daily, especially if you take your dog on a hike in the woods, or if you have a pet that is frequently outdoors.
If you find a tick, put on rubber gloves to avoid touching it directly. Use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick-removal tool. Never use nail polish, petroleum jelly or a hot match. Part the hair on the pet’s coat to better locate the entire tick. Grab the tick with tweezers by its head and steadily pull the tick away from the pet’s skin. Dab an antiseptic on the pet’s skin where the tick was removed. Dispose of the tick in a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and tightly seal the bottle. Don’t drop the tick in a toilet because ticks have air sacs that enable them to survive in water.
By Sarah Zumhofe