Tick Disease Prevention for Dogs
Why wait for a bite? Veterinary parasitologist and a founder and board member of the Companion Animal Parasite Council Dr. Byran Blagburn says that in his opinion it makes sense to use a topical tick preventative, products squeezed from a tube and placed on the back of a dog, with repellency properties. If the bug is repelled – it obviously can’t bite.
If a bug does manage to hitch a ride, with the right topical products there’s instant kill before a bite will happen. “While many of the oral (chewable) products are fast acting, why take a chance?” says Blagburn.
Bottom line: Use something – ticks are on the attack.
“Tick disease in dogs are at epidemic proportions,” Blagburn adds.
Blagburn says in tick endemic areas (such as New England and the upper Midwest), up to half of all dogs may be infected with Lyme disease, the most common of tick diseases in dogs.
According to the recently released Banfield State of Pet Health 2014 Report, the prevalence of Lyme disease in dogs throughout the country has increased by 21 percent since 2009.
Veterinarians like Blagburn, who is a distinguished professor at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine – Auburn, AL have known about the accelerating tick numbers for years. In this instance, dogs are a sentinel for people. So, it’s no surprise that last summer the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adjusted their estimates for Lyme disease which they say is now 10 times more common in than previous national counts showed, with over 300,000 people a year getting sick. Those numbers are expected to continue to increase.
Arguably the most accurate mapping for tick disease originates from the Companion Animal Parasite Council. Their maps show where parasites like ticks are location and how dense their populations are. Tick species are on the move, steadily expanding their range now for years. And where tick species go, disease goes with them,
One example is the Gulf Coast tick which spreads an often devastating disease emerging disease to dogs few have heard of, called canine hepatozoonosis, Soon people will be hearing; the tick species that spreads the disease is no longer solely limited to Gulf Coast states.
The Lone Star Tick and two deer tick species are responsible for a very recent and sudden explosion of anaplasmosis, a tick disease which isn’t too different than Lyme. Sometimes pets (or people) are given a cocktail of several tick diseases simultaneously, referred to as co-infection. Anaplasmosis is often associated with Lyme.
Urban areas and suburbs are no longer a safe haven. Where there’s wildlife, there are ticks and therefore tick disease. And like the ticks which feed off them, deer, raccoon, opossum, mice, and even wild turkey are found in greater numbers and in more places. City rats will even do, as ticks aren’t necessarily fussy about who they dine on – though certainly different species have their own preferences.
For decades now people vacation with their dogs to upstate New York or Wisconsin from major metropolitan areas like New York City or Chicago, then they unknowingly import ticks back home to Central Park or Lincoln Park where ticks have dropped off and are now thriving.
One piece of good news is that not all dogs (or for that matter people) who are infected with Lyme become sick. Blagburn adds that only five to ten percent of dogs in endemic areas are symptomatic. What’s unknown is if years later the disease may crop up, and actually go undiagnosed.
Blagburn believes that thousands of dogs are walking around with undiagnosed Lyme. “How do you know if the dog has symptoms?” he wonders. “Lyme Disease is the great imposter; it can mask other diseases, so we might not know – if a dog just feels lousy, that tail still wags – and he’s not calling in sick to the office.”
There is a sensitive and inexpensive test for Lyme exposure, which is conducted in-clinic. The same blood test will also indicate two other nasty tick borne diseases (Ehrlichia ewingii and Anaplasma platys) as well as heartworm disease (which is spread by mosquitoes). Blagburn says that he feels this test should be standard of care.
Keeping the bugs off in the first places is one common sense approach to protection, which pet owners prefer. In a just released survey conducted by CEVA Animal Health and DogChannel.com, dog owners say they favor topical medications by a nine to one margin as a product type of choice so their dog’s blood doesn’t become lunch to fleas, ticks or mosquitoes.