You take precautions to keep your pet vaccinated and never allow them around other pets whose vaccination status is questionable. But, other pets are not the only avenue for your pet to become infected with a serious disease. A mosquito’s bite can release heartworms into your pet’s bloodstream and cause significant health issues for your pet. A tick’s bite can infect your pet with Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis. The team at Colony Veterinary Hospital wants to educate you on these threats to your pet’s health.
How does heartworm disease affect my pet?
If a mosquito infected with heartworm larvae bites your pet, the larvae enter your pet’s bloodstream. In dogs, the larvae can mature to adults, mate, and produce offspring, resulting in the potential for numerous worms in your dog’s heart. In cats, heartworms usually do not survive to adulthood, but can still cause significant health problems.
- Signs — In the early stages, heartworm-infected pets may not show any signs. As the disease progresses, signs may include mild cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after mild exercise, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Active pets are more likely to show signs.
- Diagnosis — Tests are performed to check for the presence of heartworm proteins in your pet’s blood.
- Treatment — An infected pet’s activity must be severely restricted, as exercise can exacerbate the damage the worms cause to your pet’s heart and lungs. Your dog’s condition will be stabilized using supportive therapy and, once stabilized, they will begin a treatment regimen determined by a veterinary professional. No treatment protocols are approved for cats, but spontaneous clearance may occur.
- Prevention — Several heartworm prevention methods are available, and should be used year-round to prevent infection.
How does Lyme disease affect my pet?
The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease and is carried and transmitted by the deer tick. Lyme disease is seen much more frequently in dogs than cats.
- Signs — Pets may go two to five months after infection before exhibiting signs, which may include fever, decreased appetite, lethargy, lameness, and joint pain and swelling.
- Diagnosis — Blood tests are performed to check for proteins that the bacterium produces. These can be detected in your pet’s bloodstream three to five weeks after your pet is infected. Diagnosis is made when your pet exhibits signs, tests positive, and responds to treatment.
- Treatment — Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, usually for at least 30 days.
- Prevention — Check your pet frequently for ticks after spending time outdoors, and provide a year-round flea and tick preventive. A Lyme disease vaccine is available for dogs. Ask our team at Colony Veterinary Hospital if your pet is a good candidate.
How does ehrlichiosis affect my pet?
Ehrlichia canis is the most common bacteria to cause ehrlichiosis in pets. These bacteria are carried and transmitted by the brown dog tick. Ehrlichia ewingii are carried and transmitted by the lone star tick and can cause an ehrlichiosis form known as canine granulocytic ehrlichiosis (CGE). Ehrlichiosis is not commonly seen in cats.
- Signs — Your pet will not exhibit signs until one to three weeks after being bitten. Your pet may be able to fight off the infection during the first few weeks, but if not, they enter the acute phase.
- Ehrlichia canis — Signs include fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, abnormal bruising and bleeding, eye inflammation, lameness, and neurologic issues.
- CGE — Signs include fever, lethargy, stiffness, vomiting, diarrhea, and neurologic abnormalities.
- Diagnosis — Ehrlichiosis signs can be similar to those of other tick-borne illnesses, making diagnosis challenging. Blood tests are available to test for exposure, but not all pets who are exposed become infected. Diagnosis is made when your pet exhibits signs, tests positive, and responds to treatment.
- Treatment — Ehrlichiosis is treated with antibiotics for three to four weeks. The same class of antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease is usually effective.
- Prevention — No vaccine is available to prevent ehrlichiosis. Check your pet for ticks frequently, and provide a year-round flea and tick preventive.
How does anaplasmosis affect my pet?
Anaplasmosis is caused by the bacteria Anaplasma phagocytophilum, transmitted by the brown dog tick, and Anaplasma platys, transmitted by the deer tick and the western black-legged tick. Anaplasmosis is not usually seen in cats.
- Signs — Signs usually are not exhibited until one to two weeks after your pet is bitten.
- A phagocytophilum — Signs include lameness, joint pain, lethargy, and fever.
- A platys — Signs include bruising, red splotches on the gums and abdomen, and nosebleeds.
- Diagnosis — Tests on your pet’s blood and urine help diagnose anaplasmosis. Diagnosis is made when your pet exhibits signs, tests positive, and responds to treatment.
- Treatment — Anaplasmosis is treated with antibiotics for 30 days. The same class of antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis is effective against anaplasmosis.
- Prevention — No vaccine is available to prevent anaplasmosis. Check your pet for ticks frequently, and provide a year-round flea and tick preventive.
Mosquitoes and ticks are cringe-worthy critters, and you now have all the information you need to protect your pet from these parasites. If your pet is exhibiting concerning signs, or if you would like to discuss any prevention methods, do not hesitate to contact the team at Colony Veterinary Hospital.