With rabbit dogs come many things, up to and including ticks. The illnesses caused by ticks are said to spike in early spring and late fall due to the increased activity level of ticks during warm months, which means the time is now to be watching for signs of tick ailments in your dogs. If you're not sure of the signs of tick related issues or the actual illnesses themselves, read on to learn more about the most common tick-borne diseases that affect dogs, and in some cases, people as well.
Photo: The Dog Liberator
The most commonly discussed tick ailment that can affect both you and your rabbit dogs is Lyme Disease. Signs of Lyme Disease included weight loss, lack of appetite, fever, lethargy, and multiple leg arthritis or lameness due to swollen joints; also possible is damage to the heart, kidneys, and nervous system. This disease is typically passed via infected deer tick and it is through acquisition of Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that Lyme's is able to take hold. Treatment is conducted through the administration of antibiotics and inpatient care is sometimes required in severe cases.
Tularemia is especially worrisome in rabbit dogs as well as their handlers as both are susceptible to its effects. Although the F. tularensis bacterium is transmitted by ticks (American dog tick, Lone Star tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and others), it can also be passed through consumption of infected animals and is common in rabbits. Also known as rabbit fever, tularemia presents in dogs in form of fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, dehydration, swollen abdomen, ulcers or white patches on the tongue, jaundice and yellowed eyes, as well as enlarged lymph nodes, spleen, and liver. This illness is treated with antibiotics and with early treatment, the prognosis is often good, but if treatment is delayed the fatality rate becomes high.
Photo: Johnson Pest Control
Ehrlichia, also transmitted by ticks, is a type of bacteria that causes ehrlichiosis, or tropical canine pancytopenia, an infection of the white blood cells. Symptoms of this disease vary depend on the strain involved and the stage of infection with Erlichia canis being the most serious. This disease is not usually fatal but after recovery it can appear to go away just to come back down the road in a chronic phase that is much more severe. Symptoms of ehrlichiosis include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, abnormal bleeding/bruising, enlarged spleen or lymph nodes, coughing, discharge from eyes and nose, lack of coordination, pain, stiffness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Treatment is administered via the anitbiotic doxycycline. Infection can also lead to Relapsing Fever or recurrent episodes.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another disease transmitted by ticks, specifically those infected with a microorganism known as Rickettsia. In addition to affecting dogs, this illness affects humans as well and is passed between ticks and hosts by bite. Fever typically presents within five days of a bite and accompanying symptoms include loss of appetite, depression, irregular heartbeat, lethargy, skin discoloration, blood in urine, loss of coordination, edema, eye pain, loss of blood clotting ability, conjunctivitis, hemorrhage, and inflammation of mucus membranes. In addition to antibiotic treatment, corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medications may be used and your dog might require hospitalization.
Since vaccinating dogs to prevent tick-borne diseases such as those above is not an option, the best weapon in the arsenal of a rabbit dog owner is to simply keep ticks off of your dog. This means checking thoroughly for the presence of ticks on a regular basis and immediately removing any that you might find. There are many products on the market that can be administered directly to the skin and coat of your dogs that will aid in prevention of tick problems, but these do not kill ticks on contact; a tick must first bite and feed before dying. Popular products include Frontline and Advantix, just to name a few. Also wise is avoiding heavy overgrowth and areas with dense leaf litter.
Photo: Animal General
Though it is said that ticks are most prevalent in the warm months of the year, that claim is climate dependent and by no means is there a guaranteed lack of a tick problem at other times of the year. With that in mind, you should always be vigilant about the condition of your rabbit dogs, staying on top of preventatives especially as you begin spending large amounts of time in the field. Additionally, with this being the time of year tick disease is most widely seen, it is wise to be vigilant to what is and not normal behavior in your rabbit dogs.
Is there a tried and true tick repellent you prefer? Do you have experience with any of the illnesses mentioned here that you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments.