Tricounty News

Ticks

Brad Paisley needs to be checking more than just his girlfriend for ticks: springtime means ticks on our animals as well. For those of you who don't listen to country music, yes, there is an actual song about a guy trying to convince his girlfriend she needs to let him check her over for ticks.

It's to the point where they try to think of the most outrageously stereotypical country song subject and quickly write a song about it before it can become a joke about country music, and it invariably ends up a hit. Other favorites of course would be "She thinks my tractor's sexy," "Tequila makes her clothes fall off," "All my exes live in Texas," "Beer for my horses," "Queen of my doublewide," the list is endless, and I'm probably forgetting some of the best.

Anyway, back to ticks. They are just one of the pests trying to live off our animals that come out when the weather warms up. The others being flies, mosquitoes, heartworms, intestinal parasites, and fleas, to name some of the big ones. Not only are we concerned about the pests themselves, but the diseases they transmit that are actually worse, such as heartworm disease from mosquitoes and Lyme disease from ticks. Next week's article will focus on mosquito diseases, so stay tuned for information on heartworm disease in our small animals and West Nile and Eastern/Western Encephalomyelitis in horses.

Lyme disease (not Limes disease or Lyme's disease), Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichiosis are three tick-borne diseases animals can get in our area, and in dogs, their exposure to these diseases actually can be screened for on the same test with the same small blood sample as their annual heartworm test. When positive for tick disease, we will typically recommend using monthly Frontline, the best product for fleas and ticks, rather than some of the other flea and tick products like collars and repellants that are both less efficacious and less safe. Additionally, there is a canine vaccine for Lyme disease that seems to provide good protection in our area, as we see lots of Lyme disease at our clinic, but have yet to have one of them be a dog who had received the vaccine. With any of the mentioned tick diseases, if they appear symptomatic, they may go on a four-week course of antibiotic to clear the infection. Typical Lyme disease symptoms include fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, and sore joints, almost like "flu" symptoms. Horses can get Lyme and similar tick diseases, and they show similar symptoms and are treated with similar antibiotics. With their shorter coats, ticks are often found sooner on horses and can be removed before they can transmit disease. Interestingly, ticks have to be attached 24-48 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease. We have special tick removal tools available that are great at getting the head and mouthparts out as soon as they are discovered on our animals.

Start thinking about all the spring wellness things your animals need such as flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, and proper vaccinations. The next few articles will address these important springtime topics, and the next time you hear Brad Paisley, check your DOG for ticks.

E-mail your animal questions to: carllarson@watkinsvetclinic.