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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's tick season!

Okay picture this, it’s just a few weeks before thanksgiving, the weather is turning colder, a little snow, a little wind, a warm meal of turkey being planned for our menu, well Peter’s menu since I am down and out with the swine flu, and plans are being made as to who is coming and who is sleeping where during the holiday season, as well, discussions of if it is even safe for them to come at all, lest I send my guests home with an oink in their voice! Yes, it was a tad bit hectic and not a time one would think about a tick borne disease!

My seven year old Newfoundland Chance whose job it is to make people feel better as a therapy dog, suddenly started to look depressed. He struggled to get up and sometimes cried with body movements. Although he still had a generous appetite he was a bit too laid back for me. Most people who know Chance would say, “He’s always laid back, how can you tell the difference?” This is true, that is his nature, but Mama knew best even as I was struggling with swine flu, I knew something was wrong with him. Hmm, Swine flu for Chance as well? I wondered.

“Pete?” I called from my sick bed. “Something is wrong with Chance.”
“What?” Peter asked as he poked his head in the bedroom door. “Why do you think something is wrong with him?”

Generally Pete says I am “over reacting”, and in most cases he’s right. But I have little in the way of patience at this particular time!

“There’s just something wrong.” I said.
“Is he eating?” Peter asks.
“Yes, he’s eating.” I answered. “He seems to have pain, maybe in his neck? Will you take him in for me?”
“Sure. Peter answered. “Make an appointment.”

What? No argument? No, you’re over reacting? Just, make an appointment? I thought.

Could this “sure make an appointment" thing mean that Peter was finally listening to me regarding dog care? Or did it mean that I was dying from the swine flu and being granted my last wish? Ah, here I sit months later so I assume he took me seriously or he just felt really bad that I was going through the oink, oink illness and looked so pathetic!

The vet visit confirmed that Chance had a slight fever and swollen joints. Blood tests revealed that Chance had Lyme disease. I could not believe it! I thought he was well protected. I have not seen ticks on my dogs since I moved here, fleas yes on occasion, ticks, no! And so the routine of antibiotics to combat this disease began.

Ugh, ticks! They’re either so bloated you can’t stand to look at them or they are so small you never even see them to begin with but in either case they have the potential to cause a great deal of illness to your dog. Taking precautions to prevent them would be the first line of defense. Many spot on treatments from your vet or pet store such as k9 Advantix can help with this. Please be very careful with over the counter spot on treatments you find in the grocery store while trying to save a few bucks. I have heard horror stories where such treatments took the lives of several healthy dogs and in most cases it was because the owner thought “more was better.” This is never the case when using anything over the counter for your dog. This also goes for flea and tick shampoos which many owners feel are harmless to their pet. Always be sure to use the proper amount for the proper size dog, watch closely for any type of reaction and if you see a reaction, wash the dog off with dawn dish soap and water to wash away the remnants of the medication so it is not constantly being absorbed through the skin.
I don’t mean to scare you but the risk you take in not seeking treatment for ticks and fleas can be just as deadly to a pet as over medicating.

The dog tick starts out small, looking much like the shape of a dark brown teardrop with eight legs, and then gradually with its jaws/mandibles inserted into the dog, the tick gorges itself with your dog’s blood and begins to look like an elongated brownish/grayish raisin with a movable back end. To remove the tick, take a pair of tweezers, grasp the body as close to the inserted portion of the tick as possible and gently pull it out of the dog. According to my friend Dr. Pete (No, no, not my hubby, but another vet friend, although my hubby wouldn't mind if I called him doctor!), be careful not to squeeze those engorged ticks too hard as you take them out because it is possible to inject some of the contents back into the dogs skin.
Once out, flush it down the toilet without touching it.
In some cases the jaws/mandibles do not come out with the body but do not panic right away as the dog’s immune system should recognize it as a foreign body and build up a small abscess to push it out, so you may feel a little bump over the next day or so.

Ticks carry with them many different diseases and they may vary according to where you live. So, when should you worry and seek vet care? Well, if at any time you see a tick on the dog or immediately after you have pulled one out and the dog starts showing symptoms of painful joints, cries when walking or has the inability to walk, seems feverish, has loss of appetite or inflammation of the eyes, then it is time to take the dog in for an exam.

According to Fiona Fisher B.Sc. D.V.M. ticks can carry many diseases. Fisher suggests that, “After removing a tick, monitor the area three times a day for three days, for redness, pain, or pus discharge. If any of these are noticed, then see your veterinarian.”

Don’t give into the old wives tale that loading up an engorged tick's back end with Vaseline will ‘smother it’ will make it back out. A tick’s system is weird; they seemingly burrow down then shut themselves off to the outside world. They don’t require a lot of oxygen and breathe through a tracheal system so they may go into a state of suspended animation. It takes a long time of keeping a tick submerged in water before it dies depending on the temperature of the water. So once you take it out, flush it down the toilet without touching it and hopefully it will stay underwater long enough to kill it, which could take up to 81 weeks! Or you can cremate it and spread the ashes over the ocean!
An engorged tick will eventually fall off on its own and are not as durable when put in water as a tick that is not engorged. Engorged ticks may die in water in about five days, but why anyone would want to keep a jar of engored ticks around anyway is beyond me!

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