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Tick-borne Diseases: Information to Share with Clients

March 14, 2019

Cats and dogs and ticks don’t mix. It’s a bad combination that can cause serious illness. Just as clients need to recognize ways to keep their pets safe from ticks, it would also benefit them to know some basic information about tick-borne diseases.

Transmission of Tick-borne Diseases

A member of the arachnid family, adult ticks usually hang out toward the top of grass or plants while holding their legs up to sense a passing host. When a warm-blooded animal walks by, the tick crawls onto it to attach and feed on its blood. As the tick feeds, saliva can enter the host’s body and bloodstream. This is the point when tick-borne diseases can be transmitted.


Babesiosis – transmitted to dogs

  • Carried by the brown tick and the American dog tick
  • Disease is caused by protozoan that attacks red blood cells
  • Natural hosts are the same as for Lyme Disease, the white-footed mouse and the white-tailed deer
  • Both Babesiosis and Lyme Disease can occur at the same time and co-infection with other tick-borne pathogens have been recorded
  • The disease is found throughout the world, but is not very common
  • It is possible to transmit this disease to other dogs through blood transfusions and through infected dog bites
  • There is no vaccine available
  • Incubation period is approximately two weeks, and symptoms include:
    • Fever
    • Lack of appetite
    • Depression
    • Splenomegaly
    • Bounding pulse
  • Greyhounds are particularly susceptible to this disease
  • Dogs being considered as blood donors should be screened for Babesiosis and any that test positive should be excluded from donating.

Cytauxzoonosis – transmitted to cats

  • Also called “Bobcat Fever” because bobcats are the main reservoir for the disease
  • Determined to be carried by the American dog tick, now thought to also be carried by the Lone Star tick
  • There is no vaccine available
  • Symptoms occur within 5 to 20 days and include:
    • Lethargy
    • Lack of appetite
    • High fever
    • Breathing problems
    • Dehydration
    • Anemia
    • Jaundice
  • Because many of the initial symptoms are general, clients often don’t realize their pet is very sick
  • Once symptoms appear, progression of the disease is very quick, a total of 3 to 5 days
  • The disease has a very high death rate so early intervention is vital to the cat’s recovery
  • Clients should be made aware of the disease if they are living in an area where the disease occurs:
    • All states southeast of Missouri and Kansas, South of Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico, and East of Missouri, Kansas, and Kentucky to the Atlantic Ocean
  • Most cases occur from March through September; the number of cases identified is on the rise.

Ehrlichiosis – Transmitted to both dogs and cats

  • Rickettsia infection carried by the brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick
  • Symptoms present around 1 to 3 weeks after the infected tick bite and include:
    • Enlarged lymph nodes
    • Lethargy, depression
    • Vomiting, diarrhea
    • Anemia
    • Respiration difficulties
    • Abnormal bleeding
    • Fever
    • Joint inflammation and pain
    • Coordination difficulties
    • Inflammation of the lungs, brain, spinal cord
    • Hemorrhages within the retina
  • Is a common infection and occurs throughout the year in almost all geographic locations
  • Most animals recover with treatment, but some animals may have recurring infections at a later time.

Prevention Review

The best ways to prevent a pet from a tick-borne disease are:

  • Use tick protection such as collars or spot-on products
  • Do daily tick checks
    • A tick can attach itself to any part of a pet’s skin
    • Usually they are found around the ears, between the toes, along the back, and in the area where the legs join the body
    • If your pet eats grass, also check along the gum line.
  • Ticks like moist, humid areas
    • Keep yard maintained
      • Mow grass short
      • Trim bushes
      • Clear leaf debris

What Clients May Not Know

Clients should be informed to contact their veterinary office if they remove an attached tick from their pet. Ticks can be identified and checked to see if they are carrying any disease.

For more tips about other animal health issues, contact your Covetrus representative today!

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