Aug. 10—As anyone who enjoys the Oklahoma outdoors can attest, ticks thrive during the summertime, making it important that people not only protect themselves from the pests, but protect their pets, too.
Several types of tick-borne diseases are found in dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, the parasites can cause Lyme disease, erlichiosis, anaplasma, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, bartonella, and hepatozoonosis.
For the safety of the animal, Alexis Colvard, of the Humane Society of Cherokee County, said it's essential that owners take preventative measures.
"The topicals you administer on the neck, those last approximately a month, but you have to make sure you have the correct weight or they're not going to be effective," she said. "You can put flea and tick medicine on a dog, but if it grows, it's not as effective at covering the skin. Most of all the dogs that we've done blood work for are going to have ehrlichiosis, which is a tick-borne illness."
Signs of ehrlichiosis include fever, poor appetite, and low blood platelets, which can be noticed if a dog is experiencing nosebleeds or showing signs of bruising. Rocky Mountain spotted fever symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, poor appetite, fever and joint pain. A dog may also show neurological signs such as wobbliness. Lyme disease, meanwhile, can be fatal, and canines can suffer from lameness, limping, fever, joint pain, and enlargement of lymph nodes.
Colvard said pet owners should weigh their options when it comes to tick medicine, as some products can last a month, some are good for three months, and collars claim to work for nine months. She said felines also need to stay protected from ticks.
Bobcat fever is one of the deadliest diseases for cats in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, cytauxzoonosis — also known as bobcat fever — can kill a cat within a few days of symptoms appearing. While a 2013 study found that a combination of an antimalarial drug and antimicrobial medication — along with supportive care to provide hydration and electrolyte balance — resulted in a 60 percent survival rate, OSU clinicians have observed a lower survival rate for cats with bobcat fever in Oklahoma.
Most cats become infected with bobcat fever between March and September.
"Bobcat fever will kill a cat if you don't catch it really quick," she said. "Cats get really lethargic really quick. If they start turning yellow, you don't have a really good chance of bringing them back and you have to go through a lot of medication. Bobcat fever is just really bad for cats in this area. The only way it can be prevented is to keep them indoors at all times or keep them on tick prevention."
Cats and dogs showing signs of a tick-borne disease need to be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately.
Rapid intervention and treatment can improve the chance of survival. To find the best practices for tick prevention in pets, owners should discuss the available options with their vets, too.