What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that live off the blood of animals. They are also vectors (carriers) of a number of diseases that affect humans, dogs, cats and farm animals.
What kind am I likely to find on my dog?
The kennel tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) or the yellow dog tick (Haemaphysalis elliptica). The males are about 3mm in length whilst the females can get up to 5mm if engorged with blood.
What problems can they cause?
They can cause a local reaction and infection if they are removed without the mouthparts intact.
They also carry two diseases called Babesia (biliary) and Ehrlichia which can be fatal.
Humans can also catch a rickettsial disease from the kennel tick which we refer to as tick bite fever.
How can I prevent them from attaching?
The tick takes about 24 hours to transmit any disease it may be carrying.
Few products have a repellent effect and those that do are not 100% effective. The tick takes about 24 hours to transmit any disease it may be carrying. Those products that do not repel generally kill the tick within those 24 hours. Nothing is ever guaranteed and I strongly recommend physically checking your dogs for ticks after spending time in a known tick area especially at times of the year when Babesia is rife. It is more prevalent during summer in summer rainfall areas and winter during winter rainfall areas (Western Cape).
What are the symptoms of Babesia and Erhlichia?
Babesia: High temperature causing the dog to be very depressed and inappetant. He may develop pale gums but this is not a consistent symptom.
Erhlichia: In the early stages the dog can develop a high temperature, inappetance and an oculonasal discharge. This may appear to resolve but often leads to the chronic form of the disease, possibly even months down the line, which often manifests as a bleeding disorder. You may notice bleeding from the nose, colon and gums along with weight loss, lethargy and high temperatures.
How do I treat Babesia or Erhlichia?
You don’t. If you are suspicious that your dog has either of these diseases then you must go directly to your vet. It is an easy diagnosis to make using either a blood smear or a blood test respectively. Babesiosis is a very aggressive disease and can result in death if not treated immediately. Ehrlichiosis has a more insidious onset but can also be fatal.
Once they have been properly treated there are various supplements you can give to build up their red bloods cell levels and strength again.