Ticks… they’re just little creepy crawlies… I know they can bite my pets but why are they so dangerous?
They are dangerous because they carry diseases that can be spread to your pet! The most important one is Biliary.
Biliary is a very common disease throughout southern Africa. Although it may be a very serious and debilitating disease, it can be easily treated in the early phases and can be prevented with proper tick control practice.
Biliary fever is caused by the parasite (Babesia canis) that is carried by ticks. The parasite infects the dog by means of a tick bite, and enters the blood stream through the tick’s saliva. The parasite infects the red blood cells of the dog. Signs of disease will become apparent from 7-21 days after the tick bite. Symptoms of disease are caused by a generalized inflammation and anaemia (loss of red blood cells) and can range from mild to fatal. A similar disease in humans is the mosquito borne disease malaria.
The parasite causes a reaction in the body and the bodies’ defence mechanisms act to try to remove the parasite from the blood stream. This causes the fever and some of the complications. The parasite also directly causes the red blood cells to break up and this could cause the urine to become red, if excessive amounts are damaged. The anaemia caused by biliary can be very severe.
Complications that can occur due to the infection include: rapid onset kidney disease, rapid onset respiratory distress syndrome (fluid on the lungs), blood clotting abnormalities and liver damage. These patients usually require intensive medical care and carry a poorer prognosis for recovery.
The disease is managed by killing the parasite, giving a blood transfusion if the anemia is severe and medically, managing any complications which may be evident. Early symptoms of infection are lethargy, anorexia with a fever, pale gums, sometimes even vomiting and bloody urine. Diagnosis of infection is easily made on a blood smear and the patient can be treated with a single injection. This injection can harm the patient if the dose is incorrect. It is not advised that you wait for the gums to be pale before considering biliary, as once the patient is anaemic a blood transfusion is often required.
Tick control is essential to prevent the disease. Ticks are mainly a problem in the summer months, but if the winter is not very cold they can persist throughout winter. Many tick control products are available.
Recommended tick control products include:
- Spot-on treatments: This includes Frontline plus which is applied by parting the hair between the shoulder blades, and applying the small amount of liquid to the skin. Application frequency varies with the product and an individual pet’s bathing needs but most are applied every 3 to 4 weeks. These products have been shown to be effective when used as instructed and are not absorbed into your pet’s bloodstream, (they stay in the skin), making them safe.
- Tablets: Bravecto is a new product for dogs that works against ticks and fleas and has been proven to work for up to 3 months. The tasty, chewable tablet is easy to give and its efficacy is not affected by bathing. Nexguard is a tablet that last for 1 month.
- Collars: Seresto is a collar that works for up to 8 months. The active ingredient is manufactured into the plastic of the collar and is slowly absorbed into the skin and thereby kills all adult fleas and ticks and prevents further infestation. It is important that the collar is fitted properly for it to work effect
Please ask us for advice for the best product for your pet’s lifestyle.
Regular tick control is the only way to try and prevent biliary in your dog.