Tick tock

Pets (Singapore) - - Ask The Expert -

My Westie was re­cently di­ag­nosed with tick fever and the vet seems un­cer­tain of his re­cov­ery. I un­der­stand there are two strains and one is more dif­fi­cult to treat than the other. What is the dif­fer­ence and how likely is he to re­cover?

The two most com­mon strains of tick fever in Singapore are Ehrli­chio­sis and Babesio­sis. Ehrlichia is a bac­terium that af­fects white blood cells and grad­u­ally low­ers a dog’s im­mune sys­tem, while Babesia is a par­a­site that in­fects and de­stroys red blood cells, re­sult­ing in anaemia or low red blood cell count. Both pathogens are spread by brown dog ticks, which can be­come car­ri­ers of the pathogens when they take a blood meal from an in­fected ca­nine and sub­se­quently feed on an­other dog. Both Ehrlichia and Babesia are po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing, with the lat­ter the more se­ri­ous of the two.

There are three phases of tick fever: acute, sub-clin­i­cal, and chronic. The acute stage oc­curs one to three weeks af­ter a dog is bit­ten by an in­fected tick. Symp­toms are usu­ally mild and may in­clude lethargy, in­ap­pe­tence, and some­times fever. If it goes un­no­ticed and/ or un­treated, the dis­ease will progress to the sub-clin­i­cal stage.

When a ca­nine is in the sub-clin­i­cal stage of tick fever, it typ­i­cally does not ex­hibit any in­di­ca­tion of the dis­ease as the bac­te­ria/par­a­site hides from the im­mune sys­tem. The an­i­mal can re­main in this state for months, or even years. A ro­bust im­mune sys­tem could po­ten­tially fight off the dis­ease, but if your dog’s body can­not over­come it, he will de­velop chronic in­fec­tion.

The most se­ri­ous phase is the chronic stage and symp­toms are var­ied—these may in­clude fever, lack of ap­petite, stiff joints, list­less­ness, vomiting, di­ar­rhoea, nose bleeds, vi­sion dif­fi­cul­ties, lame­ness, limb swelling, un­con­trol­lable bleed­ing due to low blood platelet count, and even seizures. If the an­i­mal re­ceives treat­ment only dur­ing the chronic stage, the odds of re­cov­ery are lower.

Ehrlichia is al­most com­pletely cur­able with antibiotics if the dog is treated early. Babesia can be treated with an­tipar­a­sitic med­i­ca­tions, but more se­verely af­fected pa­tients have to be hos­pi­talised and might re­quire blood trans­fu­sions. Like­li­hood of re­cov­ery is good if the an­i­mal sur­vives the first 10 days.

Treat­ment for Ehrlichia does not fully elim­i­nate the bac­terium from the body, so the dis­ease may flare up again when im­mu­nity is com­pro­mised. Hence, reg­u­lar tick pre­ven­tion is the best way to min­imise the prob­a­bil­ity of con­tract­ing tick fever.

Ex­pert: Dr Chong Lip Ren BVSc (Syd­ney) Vet­eri­nary Sur­geon Pets Av­enue Vet­eri­nary Clinic

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.