Screening for Tick Disease


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K. Wade Burton, DVM, a Medical Affairs Specialist in Infectious Disease at IDEXX, wants people to know about the importance of screening dogs annually for tick-borne disease. People seem to understand that ticks carry disease, but may not realize a single tick bite may carry a pathogen cocktail – passing along several tick diseases with one bite. We chat on my national Steve Dale’s Pet World radio show about how dogs are sentinels for us understanding what tick diseases are being spread and where. The Centers for Disease Control is now even waking up to what veterinarians have known for many years regarding this relationship.

Of course, you can protect your dog from tick disease by using a veterinary recommended product. And to some extent, you may be able to control your environment to make your yard a bit more tick unfriendly.

But it’s important to know if your dog has previously had exposure to tick disease. The Snap 4DX Plus screening test can determine that.

Dogs with tick disease may (or may not) be harder to diagnose than you think, as signs are often general and include lameness, lethargy, lack of appetite, slight fever. And the symptoms may come and go.

The simple blood test screens for detection of antibodies to Lyme,  Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma platys, as well as Ehrlichia canis and Ehrlichia ewingii which indicates tick exposure and the potential transmission of tick borne disease. It also tests for heartworm disease transmitted by mosquitos.

In my view the screening for tick disease should be standard of care – because without it, tick disease may be difficult to diagnose early. Also, you can’t say a dog doesn’t have it (tick disease) if you don’t look for it.

Burton brings up a good point – and that is that most dogs have a negative response – a test that doesn’t show the dog has been exposed to tick disease or has heartworm is a reason for celebration!