Ticks are parasites that suck blood by latching themselves to both animals and people, said MSD Veterinary Manual, a trusted source of animal health information. They are not insects; rather, they are arachnids related to spiders and mites. Once the ticks attach to a host, these parasites feed on the animal or person voraciously. Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and more. Wounds caused by ticks can lead to secondary bacterial infections and screwworm infestations. Severe tick infestations can cause anemia and death.
Canine Tick-Borne Diseases In India (2011)
Overall, 525 dogs (42.1% intact females, 35.1% intact males, 12.3% neutered males, and 10.5% neutered females ) were sampled for the study, with 77% strays and 23% shelter dogs, said Puteri Azaziah Megat Abd Rani and colleagues of BMC Parasites and Vectors, a journal portal that focuses on all aspects of the biology of parasites and more. 53% of the dogs were infested with ticks upon visual inspection. The places with the highest tick infestation were in Mumbai (80%), Delhi (75.3%), Sikkim (17%), and Ladakh (11%). In total, 832 ticks were collected and identified, with the genus Rhipicephalus being the most common dog tick along with Haemaphysalis.
Rhipicephalus spp. was prevalent in Mumbai (100%), Delhi (100%), Ladakh (100%), and Sikkim (44.4%). For Haemaphysalis spp, it was most prevalent in Sikkim (55.6%). When the samples underwent a blood smear examination, each sample was negative for Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and haemotropic Mycoplasma spp. Meanwhile, Hepatozoon gamonts were observed in 2.3% of samples. When using PCR(polymerase chain reaction), 49.7% of dogs were observed to have been infected with one or more TBD (tick-borne disease) pathogens. Among 261 PCR positive dogs, 61.3% had single infections. Multiple infections with two or more canine TBD pathogens were observed in dogs from Delhi and Mumbai, with 28.7% of dogs were co-infected with two, 8.5% with three, and 1.5% with four species of canine TBD pathogens.
Of 101 dogs that were positive for multiple infections, 49.5% were co-infected with H. canis and E. canis. Canines infected with one or more canine TBD pathogens had a lower PCV (packed cell volume) (average 29.7%) than non-infected dogs (35.8%). When the authors used multivariate risk factor analysis, they found that dogs infested with ticks were 3.3 times more likely to be PCR positive for at least one or more canine TBD pathogen than dogs without ticks. Further, neutered dogs were 1.9 times less likely to be PCR positive for canine TBDs compared to intact dogs. Dogs from refuges were 2.3 times less likely to be PCR positive for canine TBDs compared to stray dogs.
Facts About Ticks
They can be found anywhere in the world. Some ticks feed on specific animals, but other species can attach themselves to other species of animals, including humans. A tick’s blood-sucking behavior is dependent on the species. So long as environmental conditions permit, ticks can survive for several months or several years without food.
One example of a tick species is Otobius megnini. It can conceal itself, preferring to attach itself in the host’s ears, which means they are often overlooked by pet owners. Found in low rainfall areas of the western US, Mexico, and Western Canada, dogs and humans can have severe irritation from ear canal infestations. Toxins from the said species may cause paralysis. Secondary infections by larval screwworms can also be observed. Otobius megnini ticks can transmit Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, and tularemia.
Examples of Canine Tick-Borne Diseases
1. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease comes from the deer tick, causing lameness, stiffness, swollen joints, appetite loss, fever, and fatigue, said Canine Health Foundation, whose objective is to advance the health of both dogs and dog owners. If your dog is infected, it may not show signs until months after the infection.
2. Canine Ehrlichiosis
Found worldwide, canine ehrlichiosis is the most common and one of the most dangerous tick-borne diseases of dogs. It is caused by the brown dog tick. Symptoms may not manifest until months after the transmission. Signs can include fever, appetite loss, weight loss, runny eyes, depression, nose bleeds, and swollen limbs.
3. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Originating from the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain spotted fever comes from the wood tick, the lone star tick, and the American dog tick. Fever, stiffness, neurological issues, and skin lesions are the symptoms of this disease. Rocky Mountain spotted fever lasts about two weeks. In severe cases, it could lead to death.
4. Canine Anaplasmosis
Canine anaplasmosis, also known as dog fever or dog tick fever, comes from the deer tick. Similar to other tick diseases, symptoms can include appetite loss, stiff joints, lethargy, and fever. However, signs can also include diarrhea and vomiting. In severe cases, your dog may experience seizures.
Preventing and Treating Tick-Borne Diseases
Early diagnosis and treatment aids in the success of treating tick-borne diseases. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommended treatment plan. Remove the ticks as soon as possible to minimize the transmission of disease and damage. Use tweezers to grasp the tick and pull it off gently. Avoid removing a tick with your hands. This is because some tick-borne diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be transmitted via breaks in your skin or contact with mucous membranes. Exercise care when selecting an anti-tick product for your dog. It is recommended to consult your veterinarian for the best anti-tick product for your canine.
Tell your veterinarian if you have other pets in the house so they will know which product they will recommend to you. As much as possible, keep your dogs and other animals away from tick-prone areas to minimize exposure. Consider removing tall grass and weeds and trimming vegetation to protect your dog. You can use insecticides but it is not advisable for wide use due to environmental concerns and treatment costs for large areas. If there are scores of ticks crawling on the walls of your house, contact a professional exterminator and move out for a certain period to give them time to eliminate the ticks. Moving out will also give the chemicals enough time to dissipate before going back to your house.
Tick infestations are no joke since they can transmit diseases to animals and humans. Owners should be wary of small bumps in their pet’s fur. Chances are, the bumps may indicate a tick infestation. It is possible to remove a tick using a tweezer, but owners can consult their veterinarian if they wish to know how to remove one safely.