Ticks are a problem in a tropical country like Singapore, hence it is not uncommon to find ticks on our dogs, especially if your dogs regularly go for walks in parks (ticks tend to live in grassy areas).
But luckily for us, we don’t have too many types here, and the primary one we have to be worried about is the Rhipicephalus sanguineus, a.k.a., the brown dog tick.
Unlucky canine owners who are experiencing, or have had a tick infested pooch or home, you have my sympathies.
Fighting a tick infestation problem is no easy feat, and the process of de-ticking your dog or house is bound to tick anyone off.
But the infestation alone is not the only cause of worry — Ticks are known vectors of diseases, although not all ticks carry or transmit diseases.
However, the threat of disease is ever-present where ticks are concerned. All it takes is one disease carrying tick on your dog for a diseased state to occur!
Ah Beng Pet Store speaks with one of Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group’s Veterinarian Dr Jane Teo about the severity of tick-borne diseases, and the proper prevention needed to keep your pooch tick-free, and safe.
The Rhipicephalus Sanguineus/ Brown Dog Tick
The brown dog tick goes through four stages of life: egg, larvae, nymph, and adult.
The life cycle of a dog tick
Adult female hard ticks usually breed while on the host animal and then drop to the ground to lay eggs. A female lays several thousand eggs at a time, which will eventually hatch into the larval stage. At this stage of life, these small ticks (about 1/8-inch in size) have six legs. These small ticks will then find their way to the host animal to feed, breed and reproduce (and the cycle goes on).
Question: So, what are some of the results of dog tick bites, and how severe can they actually be?
Ticks have the potential to carry several different types of organisms, namely: Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, or Babesia.
Some results include skin problem, hair loss from scratching, blood loss, anaemia, [and] tick-borne diseases.
When your dog is infected with these organisms, the condition is generally termed tick fever.
A little more about these bacteria, and its effects on infected dogs (explained by Dr Teo):
- Canine Ehrlichiosis
This is the most common tick-borne disease known to infect dogs. Symptoms may not surface for months after transmission, and can include fever, loss of appetite, depression, weight loss, nose bleeds and swollen limbs.
- Canine Anaplasmosis
Signs of anaplasmosis are similar to ehrlichiosis and include fever, pain in the joints, vomiting, diarrhea, and possible nervous system disorders.
- Canine Babesiosis
Two common strains of Canine Babesia that we see in Singapore are Babesia gibsoni and Babesia canis.
Signs of babesiosis in dogs are typically severe. They include pale gums, depression, dark-colored urine, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. In severe cases, the animal may collapse and go into shock. If left untreated, life-threatening anaemia may result and the dog may require hospitalisation and blood transfusions.
Question: What are some of the consequences of tick fever? (Tick fever, as Dr Teo explained, is one of the consequences of being infected with the tick-borne bacteria)
1. Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) and/or anemia
Some patients may require hospitalisation, fluid therapy and sometimes blood transfusions.
2. Ocular Symptoms
A small percentage of dogs infected with the tick-borne diseases may develop ocular symptoms including conjunctivitis, subconjunctival hemorrhage, uveitis or retinal hemorrhage.
3. Tick paralysis (Luckily, there is no known case of tick paralysis in Singapore)
[Tick paralysis is] caused by a toxin secreted by ticks which affects the nervous system.
The dog typically develops a weakness in the rear legs, eventually involving all four limbs, followed by difficulty breathing and swallowing. Death may result if the condition progresses further.
Question: What would you advice furkid parents to do if their pet or home was tick-infested?
- Ticks should be removed promptly. The longer a tick stays attached to your dog, the higher the risk of disease transmission
- Start tick preventives to monitor your dog closely for signs of tick-borne diseases
- Consult your vet immediately if you suspect that your dog may be infected (symptoms include mild lethargy, lack of appetite)
- Consider shaving down your dog’s fur to make tick detection easier
- Replace your pet’s bedding or wash and disinfect in hot water regularly
- Keep to a strict housekeeping regime: regular vacuuming and washing of linen
- If the house is tick-infested, you may have to call a professional exterminator to get rid of the ticks
Question: What are 3 tick fever prevention methods you would use/recommend dog owners use on their own dog?
- Physical Checks:
Check your dogs for ticks daily especially if they frequent grassy areas and public dog runs. Brush your fingers through fur to feel for any small bumps (especially between toes and ears). If you feel a bump, part the fur to identify it. An embedded tick will vary in size, from a pinhead to a small raisin.
- Spot-On Preventives:
Speak with your vet about products that are suitable for your pet.
- Oral Preventives:
Speak with your vet about products that are suitable for your pet.
*check out our previous article for more details
Question: What are some misconceptions people have about ticks/ tick bites?
Myth 1: “My dog is on tick preventives so he will not get any ticks on him.”
Fact 1: The preventives are not repellents. Ticks may still crawl onto your dogs.
Myth 2: “My dog completed treatment for tick fever. He is totally cured.”
Fact 2: Drug therapy relieves symptoms of the infection but doesn’t totally clear the organisms from the dog’s system. The infection can flare up during periods of stress.
Question: Lastly, is there anything you would like the public/ pet owners to know about responsible pet ownership/ tick-care?
- Signs of tick borne disease may not appear until weeks after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your dog has been bitten by a tick.
- Check your dogs carefully before and after going to public places like dog runs and dog cafes. As much as we protect our dogs from getting ticks, we also should not be spreading them to other dogs.
- The key to treating tick-borne disease is early detection. Several broad-spectrum antibiotics [used] to treat tick-borne disease are generally effective, especially in the early stages of the disease.
- As part of your dog’s annual or half-yearly health screen, it is advisable to run blood tests to screen for tick borne diseases.
- Dogs are most often exposed to tick borne diseases through the bite of an infected tick, but transmission can also occur via blood transfusion. Therefore, dogs who have been infected with tick-borne parasites cannot be blood donors.
So, how do you know if you’ve got a tick problem or a tick infestation? Here are some signs to take notice of:
If you find yourself ticking off most of this list, you probably have a tick infestation, which means that your furkid is probably prone to the above mentioned health concerns!
Ticks are a prevalent problem in Singapore, and despite the good graces of our geographical location (which means that we only have to worry about the brown dog tick), tick-borne diseases are still a cause of worry. So, heed our trusty veterinarian’s advice, and be sure to take precaution to save your pooch from tick-borne infections.