Veterinarian - San Diego
1540 Morena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110

619-275-0888

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By Natalie Kushner
August 04, 2014
Category: Pet Safety
Tags: ticks   tick  
You’re planning a family camping vacation in NorCal and want to bring your family pet along for the trip. Or perhaps, you’re going for a brisk run in the canyon this morning and want to your dog to get some exercise.  Or maybe you’re thinking of purchasing a house with a large yard and lots of trees to provide shade for Sparky to roam outside for a while.
 
So many pet owners in San Diego make all the preparations, but are unaware of the danger hiding beneath fallen leaves, within high grass and in thick brush: ticks.
 
Ticks are ectoparasites, or skin parasites, that feed on the blood of a variety of animals including dogs, cats, horses, cattle, reptiles, rodents and other small mammals.  Ticks in the past have been known to most-heavily populate the northern and eastern regions on the United States, but more recently some tick species have migrated to other regions including southern California preferring warmer climates. The most prevalent of these species include the American dog tick, Western blacklegged tick and Brown dog tick, found in every corner of the world.
 
Depending on the species of tick, they can carry a ton of disease. Ticks are not born infected; instead they pick up diseases by feeding off wild creatures. Through blood transmission, ticks can pass on potentially life-threatening diseases to people and pets, sometimes feeding for hours or days. An engorged, female tick can weigh up to 600 times heavier and lay up to 3,000-6,000 eggs at a time.
 
If that wasn’t enough to upset your lunch, these blood-suckers can be carried into your home, crawling up walls and living inside cracks of plaster, ceilings, in attics, or inside a dog kennel.  Did I mention that ticks carry disease to humans as well? Tick bites can result in diseases that cause aches, chills, fever, rashes, lesions, paralysis and death in people.
 
For our animal friends who are less likely to tell you they’ve been bitten by a tick, the threat is the worse.
 
Lyme disease received an influx of media attention in the 1980s, but it does not manifest itself in dogs the way it does in humans. Instead weeks or months after a bite, animals begin to develop arthritic-like symptoms, and if untreated kidney damage can occur. Cases of Lyme disease in San Diego County are rare, only 1 out of 300 pets tested positive for the disease this year according to information gathered by CAPC, the Companion Animal Parasite Council. The disease is much more prevalent in regions of northern California.
 
More alarming are the statistics for the increasing presence of Ehrlichiosis, another tick-borne disease which inhabits and destroys white blood cells, and can result in abnormal bleeding and inflammation, neurological issues, kidney failure and paralysis in dogs. Ehrichiosis was first noted in military dogs returning from service in the Vietnam War, and since then CDC estimates a slight increase in reported cases in humans from 2000 to 2008. A CAPC report found this year 1 out of 42 dogs have tested positive for the disease in San Diego County, representing 14% of all cases reported in California.
 
Cats are also at risk to tick-borne disease, mostly outdoor cats able to roam through brush, tall grass, or wooded areas. Ticks can transmit several diseases to cats including Babesia, Cytauxzoonosis and Mycoplasma with varying symptoms such as fever, lack of appetite, jaundice and anemia. Ticks carried into a home by cats can still transmit disease to humans after feeding off of their pets.
 
The best way to prevent pets from being infected with these diseases is to prevent the tick from biting. Fipronil, otherwise known as Frontline, is a topical solution applied to the skin that discourages ticks from staying on the pet. Selamectin, or Revolution, is labeled to control the American dog tick only. A newer product called Vectra 3D, wards off ticks by keeping them off of the skin and begins killing certain species in one hour, with a total-kill of all tick species in 24 hours.
 
Certain products, including Frontline for DogsRevolution for Dogs and Vectra 3D, are not to be used on cats and can be fatal. Currently, only products containing etofenprox, fipronil, and flumethrin are approved for use on cats. Because cats are more sensitive to pesticides, it’s better to limit a cat’s outdoor time and check all animals thoroughly for ticks by running your hands down the pet’s body. The veterinarians at Morena Pet Hospital can help you pick which product is right for your pet, but make sure to read all information and packaging when purchasing any tick prevention product.
 
Since no product is 100% effective all of the time, if you do find a tick on your pet, they can be removed with rubbing alcohol and tweezers, taking extra care to make sure you do not squeeze or twist the body of the tick and that you remove the entire head of the tick as well.  Make sure the tick does not transmit any disease to you during removal. Any “tried and true” methods of tick removal involving turpentine, nail polish, petroleum jelly or open-flame matches need to stay in the 1900s and NOT be used on an animal.
 
If it sounds complicated, it’s because it actually is, and tick removal is a task best accomplished by a veterinarian.  If you suspect your pet has been exposed to ticks, or bitten by a tick, contact the staff of Morena Pet Hospital right away.
 
 
Sources:
 

 
 
 
Current Advice on Ectoparasite – Tick Control. http://www.capcvet.org/capc-recommendations/ticks/
 
 
CDC – Tick Borne Diseases. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/tick-borne/
 
CDC - Statistics and Epidemiology, Annual Cases of Ehrlichiosis in the United States. http://www.cdc.gov/ehrlichiosis/stats/
 

ASPCA – Cat Care – Ticks. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/ticks

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