By Dr. Christine Calvert
Veterinarian Owner, Calvert Veterinary Center
It is finally Spring, or maybe we went straight to Summer? The warm weather is here and the ticks are as happy about it as we are. Although tick prevention is recommended year round, now is the time we often see plentiful numbers of these tiny pests. Don’t let your pet be bothered by ticks and prevent the three main tick-borne diseases that we see in our area.
Lyme Disease is the most commonly known tick-borne disease that affects people and their pets. The spirochete bacteria, Borrelia Borgdorferi, transmitted by the deer tick can cause classic symptoms which include fever, lethargy, aching joints and even sometimes neurologic symptoms. Often these early, non-specific signs can go un-noticed allowing this disease to advance and lead to kidney disease in dogs. Once this pesky bacteria forms immune complexes within your dog’s kidneys, the damage is irreversible and cannot be treated. Early diagnosis and treatment is key! A simple blood test (4DX test)can be performed in our office which provides accurate results within 10 minutes to determine if your pet has been exposed to any of these tick-borne illnesses. A more specific test called a Lyme C6 test may be needed to confirm active infection vs. recent exposure. Keep in mind it can take 4-6 weeks from the time of a tick bite for the body to develop antibodies and show a positive test result.
Ehrlichiosis is also a bacteria that is transmitted by the Lone Star Tick and the Deer Tick. Symptoms can be similar to Lyme disease including lethargy, fever, and aches. With Ehrlichia Canis infections, pets often have small bruises noted on their belly, lips, or gums or may also have facial swelling. The 4DX test will also screen your pet for the two common strains of Ehrlichiosis. In some cases, additional lab work to check the red and white blood cell counts is needed to determine if there is an active infection prior to treating with antibiotics.
Anaplasmosis is a bacteria with transmission from the Deer Tick and the Western Black-Legged Tick. This disease is very similar to Lyme Disease and is characterized by fever, lethargy and decreased appetite. Treatment with oral antibiotics is needed if the 4DX test is positive and your pet is symptomatic.
Because all of these diseases can be difficult to detect it is very important to test early and often. The 4DX test will screen your pet for Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Heartworm disease. Early diagnosis and treatment of these diseases are important to protect your pet. Preventative measures such as vaccines to prevent Lyme Disease and quick acting flea and tick preventatives such as Nexgard (oral) or Frontline Gold (topical) can kill the ticks before they have time to transmit a disease to your pet.
If you find a tick on your pet, the tick can be saved in a plastic Ziploc bag and sent to a laboratory for PCR testing to determine if it carries one of the tick-borne diseases. If you find a tick on your pet, www.tickencounter.org/tick_indentification is a great resource to help you identify the type of tick which can help your veterinarian know which types of diseases need to be considered.
The doctors at Calvert Veterinary Center have more than 30 years of combined experience treating all types of pets for many ailments. Call 410-360-PAWS (7297) for an appointment or to schedule online visit www.calvertvet.com. Calvert Veterinary Center is conveniently located at 4100 Mountain Road and has been proudly serving the Pasadena community for more than 14 years.