Ticks, Dogs and Winter Weather: The Danger is Still Here

Dr. Ruth MacPete, DVMDog Checkups & Preventive Care

dog playing in snow
PetHealthNetwork photo

Did you know that ticks are not just a spring and summer problem? You might be surprised to learn that ticks can be found year round, and not just in warmer climates. A 2010 study from the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that some infected ticks have actually developed a type of anti-freeze glycoprotein to survive the cold. Unfortunately, this means that just because winter has arrived, dog parents cannot let their guard down when it comes to ticks. 

Why should winter ticks concern you?
Ticks are found throughout the United States and can spread diseases like Lyme diseaseEhrlichiosisRocky Mountain Spotted FeverAnaplasmosis, Tularemia and Babesia. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are a significant source of morbidity in people and dogs — in particular, Lyme disease; the CDC says it has been reported in almost every state as of 2013,and its prevalence is increasing in the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest according to a Parasites & Vectors report found here. Check with your veterinarian about the risk of Lyme disease in your area and click here to view the CAPC prevalence maps for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

Signs and symptoms of tick-borne illness
The signs and symptoms of tick-borne illnesses depend on the particular illness. For example, Lyme disease symptoms may include:

Many other tick-borne illnesses have no signs or take months for symptoms to develop. Since many of these illnesses either have subtle signs and symptoms, or mimic other diseases, screening for tick-borne illnesses is a vital component of a dog’s annual exam. If your dog has been exposed to ticks, speak with your veterinarian about screening tests and prevention rather than waiting for symptoms to develop. Click here for potential symptoms of more tick-borne diseases.

Treatment of tick-borne disease
Treatment varies depending on the type of tick-borne illness. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borelia burgdorferi and is treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Other tick borne illnesses caused by different pathogens require different antibiotics.

Diagnosis of tick-borne disease
Since many affected animals may not show signs of disease, or may take months to develop symptoms, screening tests are a vital component of a dog’s annual exam. These tests screen for the most common tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.

How to protect your dogs from winter ticks
Speak with your veterinarian to find out if ticks are a year round problem in your area and if she recommends your pet be vaccinated for Lyme disease. 

Consider these three tips to help protect your dogs from tick borne illnesses:

  • When your dog goes outside, make it a habit to check him thoroughly for ticks! If you find a tick, remove it immediately.  
  • Since many tick-borne illnesses have no signs or symptoms early on, do screening tests annually. They allow your veterinarian to identify illnesses early so that she can initiate treatment right away. Learn more about the importance of annual testing here.
  • Utilize tick preventives year round if you live in an area where ticks are a year round problem.

While spring and summer are the most dangerous times when it comes to ticks, it’s important to remember that these creepy critters can be found year round depending on the weather in your area. By keeping your dogs on tick preventatives, screening for tick-borne illnesses yearly, and checking for ticks, you are doing everything you can to keep your dogs safe from ticks.

Click here to learn more about parasite protection.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Advertisements

Winter Holiday Hazards for Pets

Winter Holiday Hazards for Pets Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT
Date Reviewed/Revised: 10/03/2018

Photo by VIN

The holiday season is upon us, and many pet parents plan to include their furry companions in the festivities. As you gear up for the holidays, it is important to try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. Also, please be sure to steer pets clear of the following unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations.

Be Careful with Seasonal Plants and Decorations

  • Oh, Christmas Tree: Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe.

  • Avoid Mistletoe & Holly: Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.

  • Tinsel-less Town: Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.

  • That Holiday Glow: Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!

  • Wired Up: Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth and digestive tract.

Avoid Holiday Food Dangers

  • Skip the Sweets: By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising pet will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

  • Leave the Leftovers: Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.

  • Careful with Cocktails: If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

  • Selecting Special Treats: Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer.

Plan a Pet-Safe Holiday Gathering

  • House Rules: If your animal-loving guests would like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session.

  • Put the Meds Away: Make sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.

  • A Room of Their Own: Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.

  • New Year’s Noise: As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears. And remember that many pets are also scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches.

Always Be Prepared !!!!

Your animal may become poisoned in spite of your best efforts to prevent it. You should keep telephone numbers for your veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary service, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4 ANI-HELP) in a convenient location. If you suspect that your pet has ingested something poisonous, seek medical attention immediately.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1-888-4ANI-HELP
www.apcc.aspca.org

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, an operating division of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a unique, emergency hotline providing 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week telephone assistance to veterinarians and pet owners. The Center’s hotline veterinarians can quickly answer questions about toxic substances found in our everyday surroundings that can be dangerous to animals. The Center maintains a wide collection of reference materials and computer databases that help provide toxicological information for various species. Veterinary professionals provide around-the-clock, on-site coverage of the Center. The licensed staff members share over one hundred and ten years of combined call center experience and over seventy-five years of combined toxicology, clinical, and diagnostic experience. The phone number of the Center is 1-888-4-ANI-HELP (1-888-426-4435) and the website is www.apcc.aspca.org.

A New Beginning

This is a new adventure.  Our hope is to provide regular new content, written by our staff or other trusted sources, to help you understand the many facets of caring for your pet.  Some of what we will share will be stories, other times we might answer questions we have had asked in the exam rooms, or other times we just might share thoughts about what life is like inside the veterinary hospital and outside the exam room.