I felt something amiss when Sherry’s appetite was lousy these few days.
Usually, she is also very hyper. But yesterday, she slept for almost the whole day.
And last night her temperature was high.
So I took her to the vet first thing in the morning, and apparently she got bitten by a tick infected with Babesiosis.
The vet gave her 2 injections, took out a blood sample to scan under the microscope and located the virus for me to see in the red blood cells.
He said there was a 50/50 chance she will get well from this first line of treatment (together with oral medication).
Sherry is just quite unfortunate statistically to be bitten by an infected tick, which can be found anywhere outside the house.
Anyway, I searched out a useful article for other dog owners to be aware as tick fever can affect dogs of all ages.
TICK FEVER IN DOGS
The purpose of this article is to outline how the main disease carried by ticks affect our dogs and what we can do to reduce the possibility of infection. The main tick borne disease of south west France is known by several names – Babesiosis, Piroplasmosis or just Tick Fever.
It is a life threatening disease, which can lead to complications such as kidney failure.
What are ticks?
Ticks are insects. They attach themselves to an infected mammal (deer, sheep, dog etc) and feed by puncturing a vein, that is, it feeds on blood.
In doing so, the parasite which is in the red blood cells, enters the tick. The tick then drops off and lays eggs which develop into a generation of infected ticks. Ticks are attracted to warmth, and so will attach to a dog (or other mammal) when passing. It will then have a blood meal, passing the parasite into the dog’s bloodstream in the process.
The parasite invades the red blood cells, causing the body to recognise that they are different and therefore reject and destroy them.
The ticks are most active when it is warm and wet i.e. spring and autumn. It is worth noting that the change in the climate giving us warmth up to December means that the dogs are at risk for a longer period of time than previously.
Signs to look out for –
Early signs are trembling and shivering. Depending on the severity of infection the dog will refuse food and is reluctant to leave his bed. This can happen very suddenly.
If you can see what colour the urine is (easier in males than females!), you will find that it is not the normal yellow colour, but brown in colour. This is the pigment from the red blood cells which are being destroyed. Also, the gums are paler due to the breakdown of red blood cells.
Those of you happy to wield a thermometer will find the temperature is often as high as 104°F or 40°C.
It is the rejection of the red blood cells which causes the clinical signs of lethargy, high temperature, discoloured urine (the pigments from the blood are excreted in the urine), yellowing of the skin, gums and around the eyes i.e. jaundice ( when the amount of pigment broken down cannot be excreted quickly enough), muscle weakness and even convulsions.
If you suspect this disease, you must arrange for a vet to see your dog as soon as possible.
A definite diagnosis can be difficult, as a blood smear (taken from the ear or a toe) does not always show the parasite. However the vet will use his experience, and as rapid treatment is the key to success, will often treat regardless of whether the parasite is found.
There are blood tests to determine if there is a low grade infection, or to determine if the dog is reacting to an infection, but these take time to analyse and again, treatment is usually started before a result is obtained.
The basis of treatment is an injection which kills the parasite, and this can be repeated after several days. The injection is often painful, so be prepared.
Occasionally antibiotics are also given, and supportive therapy such as a drip or anti vomiting drugs can be useful. Other than that, lots of tender loving care, to persuade your pet to recover is the most valuable tool.
Prevention of the disease.
There are several pathways to follow,
1) Firstly using anti tick treatments, such as Frontline or Advantix is very useful. These are easy to apply spot ons and to work well please follow the directions. They must be applied to the skin and not on the hair.
If using the Frontline pump spray, it is important to know your dog’s weight so the number of pumps can be calculated. For example a 30kg Labrador needs 60 pumps of the 250 or 500ml pump bottle!
There is an anti tick collar available called Scalibor, however as it does not treat for fleas, frontline ought to be used every 6-8 weeks in conjunction to prevent flea infestations. Advantix cannot be used with Scalibor, as they are both the same type of drug and an overdose may occur.
2) Then there is the obvious option of checking your dog over daily for ticks, especially in the armpits, groin, belly and between toes. The ease of this task varies greatly depending on the coat of the dog. The ticks can be easily removed using specially developed tools, available from pet shops and vets.
3) Vaccination can help, but the vaccines are not 100% sure and are expensive. These are best given when the disease is not very active, i.e. June/July and January/February.
Most pet owners in the UK are aware that if they bring a dog from mainland Europe into the UK, they must treat it with an anti tick treatment. However, how many treat before visiting mainland Europe with their dog? There is a real need to treat your dog with a proven anti-tick treatment, such as Frontline or Advantix, prior to your visit.
The manufacturers recommend monthly dosing with Advantix or Frontline to control ticks, local vets often advise every 3 weeks during periods of danger.
Dr Diana James
06 32 23 77 08