What are Ticks and Why do We have to Worry?
Figure 1: Brown Dog Tick
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of our furry companions. These bugs tend to stay around the head, neck, ears and feet area. However in severe infestations, they can be found all over the body. Being a tropical country, Singapore has the perfect climate for ticks to thrive in and reproduce actively. There are several species of Ticks but the brown dog tick is the most commonly found in Singapore.
Ticks have barbs in their mouth to attack onto an animal and suck on its blood. This in itself, causes pain and itch. An infestation of ticks can lead to skin irritation, hair loss and secondary bacterial infections.
More importantly, Ticks can cause serious diseases by transmitting certain bacteria or parasites. Such diseases include Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. These parasites attack the immune system , red blood cells and/or platelets leading to clotting dysfucntion and loss of red blood cells.
Symptoms seen with Tick Fever Include:
- Weight loss
- Pale Gums (Anaemia)
- Icterus (yellow discolouration of gums, ears, eyes, body)
- Discoloured Urine (Reddish/Brownish)
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis is made with a collection of results. In addition to the symptoms that the patients are presented with as well as blood tests to confirm low red blood cell and platelet values, we also use the following diagnostic tests to confirm true exposure to the parasites:
- PCR Test (In-House):
- Can be used to identify the presence of Babesia, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma.
Figure 2: Our In-House PCR Machine Figure 3: PCR Positive Result for Babesia
- ELISA Snap test (In-House):
- Can be used to identify the presence of antibodies produced in response to infections with Ehrlichia and Anaplasma only.
Figure 4: ELISA 4dx Test Positive Examples for Tick Fever (Ehrlicia & Anasplasma)
What does treatment involve?
Depending on the cause, the course of treatment is usually a combination of antibiotics and/or anti-protozoal, palliative support ie: intravenous fluids, vitamins, gastroprotectants.
In extreme cases where there is severe blood loss and anaemia, blood transfusions may be required. Some dogs may also require immunosuppressives like corticosteroids to prevent immune mediated haemolytic anaemia or thrombocytopenia.
Figure 5: Ongoing Blood Transfusion
What is the prognosis with Tick Fever?
The prognosis is dependant on the severity and chronicity of the disease. Early diagnosis makes for a better prognosis.
Can it be prevented?
Tick fever can be prevented easily with tick prevention products. There are several tick preventions in the market. Anti-tick shampoos, collars and sprays tend to be useful when ticks are present, however they do not provide constant protection unlike tick prevention medications. Tick Prevention medications come in both an oral form such as in Bravecto and Nexgard, or in a spot-on form such as in Frontline. These have to be applied regularly as instructed to provide constant tick prevention.
There are curently no vaccines available to provide passive immunity to your dog.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at 6455 6880 if you have any queries.