Your best friend, your companion, your hard worker or your right hand man, whatever your dog is to you, I think we can all agree that having a dog comes with a lot of responsibility. From vaccinations, micro-chipping, and training to watching their behaviour around others and other dogs are just some of the things we have to keep an eye on. But recently you may have heard the news that there is something new we have to look out for when it comes to our dogs. A disease. A disease, spread by these guys.
Ticks. The name of this disease is babesiosis and the outbreak of it is the first of its kind in our country. Already two dogs have died and three others have needed blood transfusions in order for them to survive after being infected. So what is this disease? How does it work and what part do ticks play? Well, as usual, the ticks in this case are acting as a vector for a single-celled parasite named Babesia canis. As a dog picks up an infected tick, the tick then attaches to the skin and begins to feed. The parasite can then enter the dogs bloodstream and then their cells. As the dogs immune system attempts to destroy the parasite, the immune system ends up destroying its own red blood cells and consequently, severe anaemia sets in and then eventually, death.
Although the outbreak is so far confined to Essex, there are very high expectations that the disease will spread throughout the country, with there currently being very little that we can do about it. As other animals carry the ticks and spread them to other areas, the problem is likely to grow. As an owner of two dogs, this news is very worrying. Woodlands and moorlands are the area that our dogs love the most, but these are the very places where our dogs are most at risk of picking up ticks. My own dogs have had many ticks in their time and I have spent countless minutes and hours removing them. Previously, checking my dogs for ticks has been a nuisance for both me and my dogs, but we live in the countryside and there are plenty of ticks about, so this nuisance is, unfortunately very necessary. Of course, they have been given tick and flea treatments, but these are not always 100% effective and on more than one occasion I have found ticks, when technically, there shouldn’t be any.
With the news of this disease, checking our dogs for ticks has become even more vital. Infected ticks have to be feeding for 24 hours before the parasite can be transmitted to our dogs, so regular checks are a good idea. But what are the symptoms? What should we look out for in our dogs, after all, they can’t tell us themselves, so we have to be on alert for? Weakness, lethargy, pale gums, red urine and fever are all warning symptoms of this disease and if in doubt, get your dog checked by the vet.
So, what do we need to do? First and foremost, check! Check your dog for ticks regularly and thoroughly. Ticks often start off very small when they attach to an animal and only begin to grow to an obvious size when they have been feeding for several days. Should the tick be infected, the parasite will have been transmitted to the dogs bloodstream in this time. Treat them against ticks and fleas and talk to your vet about the best way to approach this. So, what do you do if you find a tick? Tick tweezers! They are excellent for removing ticks and one of the safest ways to do it! They ensure that the entire tick is removed and that the head is not left under the dogs skin, which can lead to other problems. Applying alcohol to the tick as a removal technique is a myth! In fact, it can often lead to the tick clamping even tighter to your dogs skin.
I promise I am not trying to scare you, but being aware of these vector spread diseases is vital when it comes to protecting our dogs. Be vigilant and protect your best friend!
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