Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tick Tick Boom

Spring is coming VERY slowly to Wisconsin this year. The unofficial word is that we have had only 2 sunny days in the month of April. And if the usual April showers weren't bad enough, it SNOWED last week! I have been able to send my boots back to the closet (see last months post), but with early AM temperatures in the 30's, I still wore a head band, gloves, and an extra layer under my polar fleece jacket when walking Gator this morning. At least I didn't have to wear rain gear like earlier this week. (update: back to rain gear for our evening walk).

In spite of the temperature, the grass is getting green, trees are starting to bud, and the creepy crawlies are creeping and crawling again. One day one of Gator's dog park buddies had a tick on her, then within days, I was hearing of other dogs having multiple ticks. I was told the same from friends who worked with wildlife. There are already ticks on cats coming into the clinic I used to work at.

Ok, so the ticks are out again, what's that got to do with the title?

Wisconsin winters are not condusive to outdoor bike riding. That means alot of time on the trainer indoors. Anyone who's spent hours on the trainer knows how tedious this is. Watching TV, even if it's saved DVR recordings of my favorite Tour de France climbing stages, didn't always get me motivated for hard work, that's where the iPod comes in handy. I have it loaded with enough "kick your butt" songs to last for even the longest training session. One of my favorite songs for training was the Hives' "Tick Tick Boom". No matter how unmotivated I was, that song never failed at getting me going. It's doing it now. The rainy, dreary days of April failed to motivate me to write another entry until now. Explosion of the tick population? Tick Tick Boom. Of course.

Other than being creepy to alot of people (I'm the opposite: for some reason, a spider will cause me to panic, but a tick crawling on me is no problem) ticks can pose a health risk to our pets as well as us.

Lyme disease is what we think about the most in Wisconsin, but there are other serious tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis, hemobartonellosis (now mycoplasmosis), babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis.

Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacteria which is transmitted by the bite of infected ticks. The most common type of tick associated with Lyme disease is what is commonly called the deer tick, however other tick species have been found to carry it also. The bacteria are transmitted by the tick as if feeds, so removing the tick before it attaches and feeds can prevent the disease. However, once in the blood stream, it is carried to many parts of the body.

Lyme disease produces symptoms characterized by arthritis, though it can sometimes involve heart, nervous system and the kidneys. The arthritic joints may become swollen and hot, and there may be a fever (102 to 105 degrees) and poor appetite. Pets may also become lame because of the disease. This painful lameness often appears suddenly and may shift from one leg to another. If untreated, it may eventually disappear, only to recur weeks or months later. Happily, in the years I practiced, I only saw 1 cat with Lyme disease.

Diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on risk of exposure, clinical symptoms and blood testing. Only a veterinarian can make the diagnosis.

Lyme Disease can be treated by antibiotics. With early detection, relief of symptoms can be seen within 24 hours of treatment. Chronic cases require longer periods of treatment.

The best way to prevent tick carried diseases is to prevent tick bites. There are many products available that reduce tick bites and kill ticks; consult your veterinarian about the best product for your pet. Check your pet for ticks after going outside, and remove the tick(s) as soon as possible.