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New Bacterial Disease Passed By Ticks

With the warm weather rapidly approaching, the tick season has hit full force and with it comes a new strain of bacteria, Ehrlichia, unique to Wisconsin and Minnesota, carried by the common deer tick. Ehrlichia strikes not only companions but humans with no tell tale signs of infection.

Researchers believe the deer and the lone star ticks carry the new bacterial disease. It is important to keep the tick if you suspect that it may result in the transmission of a disease. Use a small section of paper towel and dampen it, place the tick in the towel, seal it in a zip-lock bag, and place it in the refrigerator until you can take it to your veterinarian. Understanding the disease potentials ticks threaten our pets with can help catch tick-initiated illnesses early on.

Ehrlichia has the same type of symptoms as Lyme disease. However, Ehrlichia shows up more rapidly, within 3 to 30 days of the bite, than Lyme disease. This bacterium infects and lives within the white blood cells of their hosts. It is spread from host to host by tick bites, and because the disease infects the blood cells, antibiotics do not penetrate the inside of the cells, making it difficult to cure and control the bacteria.

Typical symptoms of Ehrlichiosis are:

Disease Passed by Ticks
There are three phases of Ehrlichiosis:

Acute
The acute phase generally occurs within 1 to 3 weeks of the bite. In this phase the bacteria is multiplying in the blood cells. The platelet count will drop during this phase. Your pet will become lethargic, have enlarged lymph nodes, fever, and will have a loss of appetite. The key to a quick recovery is catching the disease in this phase. Rarely will your pet die during the acute phase, but if left untreated it will move onto the next phase. If your pet shows any of these symptoms and he/she may have been exposed to a tick, take them to you immediately.

Subclinical
During subclinical phase your pet will appear to be normal. The bacterium has moved to the spleen and is “hiding out.” Animals can remain in this stage for months or even years. The only sign of Ehrlichia appears on a blood test showing a low platelet number and high globulin level. If left untreated, after the subclinical phase your pet will move to the chronic phase.

Chronic
In the chronic phase your pet becomes sick again. About 60% of pets infected with Ehrlichia will have abdominal bleeding due to the low platelet numbers. Your pet will also experience eye inflammation, and urinary protein loss. In this stage you will begin to notice the neurological effects from the untreated disease in your animal.

Ehrlichiosis is treated with antibiotics, such as tetracycline and doxycycline. Response to the antibiotics is usually initially rapid with improvement noticeable within the first few days. Once a pet has been diagnosed, it is not immune to reinfection. If you see signs of reinfection, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has come up with a list to reduce the chances of a tick transmitting disease to you or your pets:

  • Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they have been outdoors.
  • If you find a tick, remove it immediately, or go to your veterinary clinic.
  • Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check during every exam.
  • Discuss tickborne diseases in your area with your veterinarian.
  • Reduce tick habitats in your yard (moist, leafy structures).
  • Talk with your veterinarian about tick preventatives for your pet.
  • It is important to use tick preventative products on your animals that go outdoors.

If your pet has an imbedded tick, take it to yourveterinarian immediately. The key is early detection, and urgent action. Preventative care is the most important thing you can do for your companion. Stock up on flea and tick preventatives now and save with our monthly specials!