Springtime Ticks are More Than Just a Nuisance: They are Harbingers of Potential Disease for Pets & Pet Owners Alike!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM


It’s so lovely outside these days!  Springtime has all of  us out and about, exploring the seasonal beauty with our trusty pets alongside.  We may be planting in the garden, taking relaxing evening walks, jogging or hiking the many paths available in our park systems, and more.  And, with any of these events, we are constantly exposed to those pesky ticks, so prevalent in the moist spring time environment.  But, more than ‘pesky’, ticks commonly carry bacteria and other organisms called ricketsia, that cause disease in our dogs, cats and even in our own human population.


In Missouri, tick-borne diseases are many and include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Erlichiosis, Tularemia, Q-fever and Lymes like diseases.  Ticks take a blood meal from wild animals that are serving as reservoirs of these disease entities, and thereby, provide an opportunity to trasmit the disease to naïve hosts like pet dogs, cats and people.  These are called ‘zoonoses’, or diseases shared between animals and man.  Although people like to identify a given tick species with a particular illness, I like to suggest that if you or your pet are exposed to any ticks, then it is best to remove them as quickly as they are noted.


Early signs of potential tick-borne diseases are fairly similar, and might include fever, headache, fatigue and rash.  Usually, the tick has to be embedded for 3 or more days to encourage the successful transmission of the disease agent.  Rapid response in removing ticks, or in diagnosing disease typically provides for a successful treatment regime, often incorporating a tetracycline family drug called doxycycline.


Prevention is the key!   Ticks are fairly ubiquitous, but are happiest in grassy or wooded areas.  Check your pets frequently for embedded ticks.  They like to hide around and in the ear region, in the armpit and groin, but can reside anywhere along the body.  Removing ticks is best accomplished by applying a forcep or tweezer as close to the head attachment and firmly toggle the head free, removing the tick in its entirety.  Your vet or doctor can assist you, when needed.  Many preventatives are available for killing or deterring pets and humans alike from successful tick assaults.  DEET is able to mask the tick’s ability to recognize a potential warm-blooded host, while the score of pet products, like tick collars, Frontline, Advantix and more, all act in some way to repel or kill ticks on contact.  My best suggestion is to discuss tick prevention and treatment of tick-borne illnesses with your veterinarian and your physician.  In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure!


Take precautions and enjoy your Springtime adventures confident that you and your beloved pets are protected from those pesky ticks and their diseases!


Fondly,  Dr. Doug Pernikoff

Visit www.clarksonwilsonvet.com to learn more about Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic, 32 Clarkson Wilson Center, Chesterfield, MO 63017 or call 636-530-1808.