WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – With the recent arrival of hot temperatures, the start of summertime just a month away, and people and their pets spending time outdoors, this exciting time of year can also include miniscule pests that can do some even bigger damage.
According to Dr. Jo-Anne Leja of Pet House Calls Veterinary Clinic in Westfield, 2017 has been the worst year yet for ticks irritating pets.
As Dr. Leja doesn’t normally find ticks on pets until mid to late March, she started finding the harmful critters on the animals in February.
Deer ticks, the species that can transmit Lyme disease, are usually only dormant around the winter time when the ground is frozen and there is a heavy snow pack.
“However, this past February shows we should never let our guard down,” said Leja. “There was still snow on the ground when we started finding ticks on dogs this year.”
Knowing that ticks can now be a threat at any point of the year, there are several health issues that can come with it. Lyme disease is considered to be the most well-known, as it can cause joint problems in dogs, and less frequently, can cause kidney failure, cardiac disease, and neurological problems.
Other tick-borne diseases include Anaplasma, Erlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, just to name a few.
“Over the last 10 years in this area, we’ve seen an increase in Anaplasma and Erlichiosis in dogs,” said Leja.
Symptoms for those two diseases can range from fever, anemia, lethargy, joint pain, or no symptoms at all.
“The good news is that, when caught early, antibiotic treatment can rapidly relieve symptoms and prevent progression to more serious or permanent damage,” added Leja.
In order to help prevent your dog from catching these tick-borne diseases, Leja belives in four distinct fronts, which include screening tests, tick protection, vaccination, and environmental management.
For the yearly heartworm screening test that dogs go through, Leja tells owners to make sure the few drops of blood are also screened for the most common tick-borne diseases.
Some of the best tick protection medications include topicals that work on the surface of the dog’s skin, to oral medications, and also brand new plastic technology used in a collar that lasts eight months.
Leja noted that there are excellent Lyme disease vaccines for dogs that are better than their owners. There are no Lyme vaccines for humans in the United States.
Environmental Management refers to avoiding long pieces of grasses that are between lawns and the woods. Since ticks like brushy areas the best, the shorter the grass is, the less likely a tick will be there.
With their being a strong focus on dogs dealing with ticks, humans have to deal with the problem as well. Baystate Noble Emergency Physician Murdoc Khaleghi sees patients come in with a tick issue pretty frequently.
“We’re starting to see it,” said Khaleghi.
Typically, Khaleghi will see tick issues starting in April and run until late September or October.
“Our focus is typically removal of the tick and giving antibiotics,” said Khaleghi.
Although the Baystate Noble doctor said that giving his patients medicine helps reduce the risk, there are simple tips that are an easy way to avoid medicine in the first place.
“The only real way to avoid them is to stay out of areas that have lots of foliage,” said Khaleghi.
If you do happen to be shirtless in the woods, and see a rash somewhere on your body within a few weeks, Khaleghi said that if it’s a ring-like rash, it could be a tick bite and the start of Lyme disease.
Common symptoms include fever and muscle aches.