As summer drops its heat and rain upon us, we gear up for bug season (at least for the states with a snowy winter!). With these tiny, pesty arthropods comes a wide array of diseases that they carry and can possibly transmit not only to you but to your pets as well.
Last summer I met a sweet little terrier type dog that was hurting. She could barely walk and when we tried to lift her neck, she would yelp out in pain. On her physical exam, she was febrile, painful, and dyspneic (having difficulty breathing) and so she was placed in an oxygen cage. The doctor on her case noticed her joints were hot to the touch. Blood work would hopefully reveal more answers for this puzzle. Our patient was mildly thrombocytopenic (low platelets), had increased total protein and globulins, and her alkaline phosphatase (ALP) was increased. A SNAP test revealed a positive result for Ehrilichia canis. An oddity in veterinary medicine—a straight forward case! Our charming little patient was sent home on an intense regimen of antibiotics and a few weeks later we got word that she was feeling much better. From a thorough history, we found out that our patient had been given flea prevention, but was on a holistic tick treatment.
Ehrlichiosis is caused by bacteria that is carried by ticks and is transmitted after feeding on a host. Long term infections can lead to organomegaly, inflammation of the lungs, eyes, brain and spinal cord which can cause problems with the nervous system. Thanks to the quick thinking of this particular owner, we were able to catch the problem sooner. Other diseases that can be caused by tick bites include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
In addition to ticks, we worry about fleas and mosquitoes. One disease that fleas can carry is the Plague, which is a serious zoonotic disease found in the southwest United States. Mosquitoes carry the well-known microfiliarial parasite that we know as heartworm. All of these diseases are preventable with a reputable product that you can get from your trusted veterinarian.
While I understand that the products can seem expensive month after month, I urge you to talk to someone who has experienced a disease with their own pet. I guarantee that they would rather buy those monthly preventative medications than to go through the treatments for their pets.