An example of a tick feeding on a dog
Welcome to the second of our 3 part ‘Tick Talk’! Now that we know just what ticks are, we are going to discuss how they can affect your pet. Then, part 3 will go over prevention, which is key in these scenarios! As we discussed in part 1, ticks all over the globe carry and transmit many diseases. Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are two diseases of concern in North America.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be passed from female ticks to their progeny or acquired from a host during the larval or nymph stage and then transmitted to the next host the tick encounters. Dogs are far more susceptible than cats, and this disease can have a multitude of symptoms: fever, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, neurologic symptoms, and lymph node enlargement being a few. Since none of these symptoms are specific, and there aren’t tests that make this an easy disease to diagnose, this disease can be challenging to diagnose.
Lyme disease is acquired from the tick getting a blood meal from a host infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (which is a bacteria that causes the Lyme disease), and they then pass the Borrelia spirochete to their next host. Animals that are infected may experience a variety of symptoms as well. Limb and joint pain, renal symptoms, neurologic symptoms and cardiac abnormalities. There are tests that can be done to make this diagnosis, but detection of the organism is difficult and time consuming (can take up to 6 weeks for culture). Due to all these difficulties, this disease can also be tough to diagnose.
For those of you who like detail, the infected ticks keep Borrelia in their stomach where it multiplies. When ticks eat, they bury their mouthparts into the host, and some of those mouthparts have barbs to help anchor the tick to its host. Some ticks also secrete a saliva that’s a little like ‘cement’ to seal the hole and glue the tick to the host. Other mouthparts act like straws through which the tick sucks blood, and it will also regurgitate some blood and stomach contents back (gross – right?!) into the host. This is how bacteria like Borrelia are transmitted. This entire process takes a full day before it is possible because the tick’s stomach needs to be somewhat engorged before it will regurgitate back into the host.
Now, I know you’re dying to know how to take steps in order to prevent this from happening to your pet, so stay tuned for the final part of ‘Tick Talk’ which is coming your way very soon!
A close up of tick mouthparts