Tips from the Vet for Your Pet: Tick Diseases
By Stewart Morgan Ph.D., D.V.M.
On Molokai, there are two common diseases that you and your pets can catch from ticks. The two diseases are ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. In people, ehrlichiosis can be fatal almost two percent of the time. Signs in people include fever, muscle pains, headache, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and signs similar to that seen with the flu, according to the Center for Disease Control. Anaplasmosis has similar effects in people, with a one percent mortality (death) rate.
The brown dog tick is the tick species that carries and spreads the diseases ehrlichiosis (ehrlichia) and anaplasmosis (anaplasma) on Molokai.
We see tons of dogs sick with ehrlichiosis on Molokai. When a tick bites a dog sick with ehrlichiosis, that tick picks up the bacteria. Later on, if that tick bites a healthy dog, that healthy dog will catch the disease. In dogs, the first signs of disease are inappetence (not eating much), fever, weight loss, and weakness.
Sometimes, dogs seem to get better from ehrlichiosis on their own after a few days of sickness. After they get better, the dogs can get sick again. When this occurs, the dog often becomes even weaker and sicker than before. They can begin coughing and have large lymph nodes. They may have a yellow tint to their eyes and gums. Their gums also may look pale because they have lost red blood cells (they are anemic). The disease can affect their joints (arthritis), eyes and brain.
Anaplasmosis is similar to ehrlichia in many ways, but most dogs will recover from it on their own after being sick for several weeks.
Prevention includes keeping your animal on a good tick preventative and housing them in a clean, tick free environment. Keeping tall grass and rubbish out of the yard helps greatly. There are also yard treatments that kill ticks and fleas.
The same test that we use to test your dog for heartworm every year also tests for anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. Testing your dog yearly is also advised.
If you have problems with ticks on your pets or suspect your dog or cat has a tick disease, please do not hesitate to contact the Molokai Humane Society at 558-0000. These diseases are treatable but extremely common on Molokai. Remember that those same ticks can bite your family and make them sick. Do not hesitate to contact your physician if you suspect you or a family member has one of these diseases.