External Parasites – Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks can be found commonly in North Carolina and can cause chronic, life threatening diseases that can affect both you and your pets, both dogs and cats. It is incredibly important to protect yourself and your pet against tick bites to help prevent serious diseases. Ensuring your pet is on veterinary formulated flea and tick medication (ask your veterinarian for the option that is best for your pet and his/her lifestyle) and checking yourself and your pet for ticks frequently and ensuring proper removal can help prevent exposure to these diseases.
Tick Borne Disease – the importance of prevention
Lyme disease is a tick borne disease seen in both humans and animals. This disease is spread to your pet through the bite of an infected deer tick. The bacteria (Borrelia species) from the tick is passed into your pet’s bloodstream after it has been attached to your pet for 36-48 hours. Typically, after infection, symptoms are not seen for 2-5 months. Symptoms most commonly associated with Lyme disease are fever, joint swelling/pain, lethargy, and swollen lymph nodes. Lyme disease can cause damage to the kidneys, which can be life threatening.
A vaccination against Lyme disease is available that may reduce the severity and rate of disease transmission/progression. Please discuss this vaccine with your veterinarian to determine if this is an appropriate vaccination for your pet.
Ehrlichiosis is a disease that can be spread by multiple tick species; specifically, the Lone Star Tick, American Dog Tick, and Brown Dog Tick. This disease can cause severe sickness in your pet 1-3 weeks after your pet is bitten by an infected tick. The most common signs of exposure are fever, inappetance, and bleeding. Ehrlichiosis decreases the number of platelets in the body that help prevent bleeding. An infected pet may have bruising, weakness, or even be bleeding from their nose or other places. Quick diagnosis and treatment are crucial for your pet’s health. If left untreated, this disease can be fatal or life threatening.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a tick borne disease that is spread by bacteria harbored by multiple tick species, including the Brown Dog tick, the American Dog tick, and the Rocky Mountain Wood tick. This disease can cause significant symptoms. These include fever, swollen lymph nodes, joint swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, and low white blood cell counts. If left untreated, this disease can cause significant, long lasting clinical signs and can even be fatal.
Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria spread by the Black Legged tick. This disease affects white blood cells and can also affect platelets. Typically, clinical signs occur 1-7 days after exposure and range from mild to severe. The symptoms of anaplasmosis are similar to other tick borne diseases and include fever, joint swelling/pain, lethargy, inappetance, weakness, bleeding, bruising, and other clinical signs.
Please contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet is not feeling well. If you are concerned that your pet may have been exposed to a tick, your vet will be able to help. Your veterinarian may recommend a physical examination, blood tests, and other diagnostic tests such as a tick screening panel to help determine if your pet has been exposed and help them feel better.
Fleas – not only are they a nuisance, they can also cause diseases that can cause harm to your pet (or even yourself!). Fleas are external parasites that bite animals and take a small blood meal, leading to itchiness, scratching, rashes and irritation. Not only are they causing harm, fleas can also lay hardy eggs in the environment that will hatch into larvae, repeating the life cycle over and over. Some dogs and cats can develop severe allergies to fleas – only one bite can create large areas of irritation and skin infections. In North Carolina, fleas and ticks can be found year round, as the winters we have are not cold or long enough to kill them.
Preventing fleas from biting and getting comfortable with your pet or in your home is much easier than treating your home after they have made themselves comfortable. Your veterinarian can guide you on the best ways to prevent fleas from biting your pet – there are multiple products, both veterinary formulated and over the counter that can be helpful. It is important to ask your veterinarian about over the counter products before use, especially when using on cats. Some readily available products may be toxic to your pet if not used appropriately.
Protecting your pet against fleas and ticks can help prevent serious health issues. Please talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to keep your pet safe from these diseases and how to identify them if you are concerned. For any questions specifically related to Weddington Animal Hospital patients, please feel free to call or email us at 704-847-8466 or firstname.lastname@example.org.