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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Griffith

Vet Tips On Tick-borne Diseases

May 22, 2022

Throughout Florida, ticks pose a threat to people and pets. Despite the fact that some tick species in our area are active at different times of the year, "tick season" lasts all year. These parasites do much more than just feed on blood. In pets and people, these small parasites may carry serious, possibly debilitating diseases (like Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis), which can lead to heart and kidney complications, joint damage, or even neurological issues if not caught early.

Ticks in Florida There are around 900 species of tick in the world, but only a few pose a threat to pets and people in our area. The main ticks we have in Florida are blacklegged (deer) ticks, lone star ticks, American dog ticks, Gulf Coast ticks, and brown dog ticks (all of which have been found throughout the state). If you find a tick on your pet, you can submit a photo and information about the tick to TickSpottersTickSpottersTickSpotters lets you submit photos and information about ticks you find on your pet and uses them to track ticks across the country.

Tick Disease in Dogs In our area, ticks can transmit several diseases to dogs, including:

  • Lyme diseaseIn 2021, 3,627 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease across Florida.

  • AnaplasmosisIn 2019, there were 1,940 cases of anaplasmosis in Florida, with more than 1,000 cases reported to date this year.

  • EhrlichiosisThe risk for this disease in Florida seems to be even higher than it is for Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, with nearly 6,300 dogs (1 in 58) testing positive in 2019. This year, there have already been almost 3,700 positive canine cases so far.

Ticks can also transmit other diseases to dogs, including babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, as well as tick paralysis, a serious, potentially deadly condition in which the nervous system is attacked by a toxin in the tick’s saliva. The number of tick-transmitted disease cases across the US has been steadily increasing in both pets and people for the past decade. Florida in particular has seen a sharp increase in human cases of Lyme disease over the past several years, with a corresponding increase in canine cases as well.

Tick Disease in Cats Cats aren’t immune from ticks either. The parasites can cause tick paralysis and several diseases in cats, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Other tick-borne diseases, such as cytauxzoonosis and tularemia, although rare, can be deadly in felines. Even indoor-only cats can get ticks if the parasites hitch a ride inside on you or another pet.

How to Properly Remove a Tick To avoid spreading infections to the bite area, it is important to remove a tick properly. Get a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. When you have spread your dog's fur, grasp the tick with tweezers very close to the skin, and slowly pull straight upward in a slow and steady motion. This will prevent the tick from breaking off and becoming embedded in the skin. The other option is to master the use of a tick removal hook. Regardless of the tool you use, afterward, you should wash your hands thoroughly, disinfect the bite site with rubbing alcohol and rinse the tweezers with disinfectant. Ticks can be tricky to spot, especially in your pet’s fur. Adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, and nymphs (immature ticks) are only about the size of a poppy seed or pinhead!

Symptoms of Tick-borne Diseases in Pets If your pet shows any of these signs of tick-transmitted diseases, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Fatigue or weakness

  • Fever

  • Lameness (which may shift from one leg to another)

  • Pale gums

  • Sensitivity to touch

  • Stiff, swollen, or painful joints

  • Weight or appetite loss

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Lyme disease can also cause pets to walk stiffly with an arched back, but pets rarely get the characteristic bullseye rash seen in some people with Lyme disease.

Prevention of Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases You can take several important steps to help protect your pet and yourself from ticks and the diseases they can spread, starting with keeping your pet on tick prevention. Learn more about how to prevent tick bites and create a tick-safe yard at these helpful sites:

The best way to prevent ticks on your pet is to keep your pet on a tick control medication.

By Jacksonville Community Pet Clinics

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