ASK THE VET

A ticking time bomb on your pets

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By Dr. JoAnne Roesner, DVM, DABVP Loving Hands Animal Hospital Alpharetta
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Many people do not realize that fleas and ticks are more than a mild inconvenience – these pests can carry life challenging diseases to both you and your pets.

Bubonic and pneumonic plague are transmitted by fleas to both people and pets, and the outcome can be fatal. The cause of Cat Scratch Fever is likewise a flea-borne disease of man and animals.

Ticks have the potential of transmitting even more diseases to man and animals. Most people are familiar with the devastation of Lyme disease in humans and pets. Other organisms in this family, such as, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasma and numerous species of Erhlichea are also tick transmitted to humans and animals.

Tick populations can transmit many of these agents within themselves and cause the disease to persist in the environment. Ticks carry diseases which also solely affect our pets. Tick paralysis is a condition caused in dogs by feeding of a pregnant female tick and is fortunately reversible. Not so for cytauxzoon, a highly fatal disease in cats carried by ticks.

Most of us pet parents have had times in the past where we have regarded external parasites as simply a pesky nuisance for our animal kids. In the late ‘70s when I took my first job in a veterinary clinic, we sprayed, dipped and slathered our pets with very toxic and poorly effective insecticides in an effort to get rid of these creatures.

Fortunately, we have better and certainly safer alternatives today. Nothing on the market currently approaches the risk of older products. Unfortunately, like bacteria, insects can develop resistance to products, and many products over time have become less effective. As a result, the number of products on the market is virtually mind blowing.

Veterinary advice in seeking the best alternative for your individual situation is helpful in selecting from such a myriad of options.

While mitigation and prevention of parasites is the best protection for your pet, there are going to be times when a persistent tick breaks the barrier and hitches a ride on your pet. In those times, safe, prompt removal is the best step. Ticks can transmit disease in less than 24 hours to your pet.

To remove a tick, use pointed tweezers and grab ahold of the tick as close to your pet’s skin without pinching the skin. Always wear protective gloves when removing or handling ticks. Using steady pressure, pull the tick out using a straight motion. Avoid twisting, squeezing or crushing the tick. After removal, check to make sure the head and mouth of the tick is gone. Dispose of the tick, and disinfect the skin area where the tick was attached. If your pet exhibits any unusual behavior in the days following the tick removal, take your pet to your veterinarian for a checkup. ■

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