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As spring gives way to summer, pet owners in Berks County and beyond are preparing for a season of fun and frolic. But sunny days and slip-and-slides aren’t the only summer attractions that you should be planning for. After a particularly wet and wild spring, pet owners throughout Pennsylvania should also be prepared for a heavier-than-usual tick season.

At Conrad-Weiser Animal Hospital, we believe that year-round pet parasite prevention is a crucial component to your pet’s overall health and wellness. However, we also understand that many pet owners can (and do) let their pet’s parasite preventives lapse during the winter months.

If your four-legged friend fall into this category, or if you’ve never explored the need for parasite preventives before, now is the time to take the plunge. Here’s why…

Tick Talk

Ticks are one of the most common external parasites found on companion animals (among other warm-blooded creatures). By in large, the Deer Tick and the Dog Tick are those most frequently found locally, but the Lone Star Tick has also begun encroaching on our area, as well.

Ticks are part of the arachnid class, and of the order Parasitiformes. Also known as nature’s hitchhikers, these ectoparasites are notorious for lying in wait on the tips of long grasses and low-slung bushes until they can hop a ride – and catch a meal – on an unsuspecting passer-by.

Once a tick has attached itself to its host (be it a dog, a deer, or a human), the parasite burrows its head into the epidermis of its prey and begins to feast on its blood. As if this isn’t bad (or gross) enough, there are a variety of tick-borne illnesses that these creatures may transmit to your pet during the feeding process.

It’s important to remember, too,  that it’s not just outdoor pets that are at risk when it comes to ticks and the illnesses they carry. Ticks are also prone to hitching a ride on the clothes or gear of an unsuspecting human, then finding their meal on an even more unsuspecting indoor-only pet. Please do not assume that just because your pet doesn’t go outdoors that they do not need regular parasite preventives.

Tick-Borne Illnesses

Lyme disease is the most common illness associated with ticks. Carried by the Deer Tick, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can infect dogs, cats, humans, and other warm-blooded creatures. It can take 24-48 hours for an infected tick to transmit the disease to their host, making regular tick checks (and tick removal) paramount to protecting pets against this disease.

However, most of us are only human, and ticks can be hard to spot – particularly on our furriest friends. Because of this, prescription parasite preventives are crucial to protecting your pet, as well. Both the Bravecto tablet and Frontline Gold topical will kill ticks within 12-24 hours, making them our recommended choices for parasite preventives.

Signs of Lyme disease in pets include:

  • Depression and lethargy
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Eventual kidney failure

Anaplasmosis is caused by the infectious bacterial organism Anaplasma phagocytophilum and is transmitted via the Deer Tick. Like Lyme disease, anaplasmosis is a bacterial infection which can infect all warm-blooded creatures two- and four-legged alike. In fact, Dr. Mike was recently infected himself, giving all of us quite a scare!

Signs of anaplasmosis in pets include:

  • Joint pain and stiffness (similar to symptoms of arthritis)
  • High fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Neurological signs resulting in seizures

Both Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are most effectively treated with antibiotics and with prompt, proper treatment, your pet’s condition should start to improve within 48 hours. However, these symptoms may come and go; and should they be ignored at first blush and return, the illness can (and will) become more severe and difficult to cure.

Additional tick diseases locally found in our area of Berks County, include Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tick paralysis, and Babesiosis. Other tick species and worse diseases are knocking on our county’s door.

Protecting Your Pet Against Ticks

If your pet’s parasite preventive has lapsed, please call us for an appointment. During this appointment we can discuss which preventive is best for your pet’s lifestyle and run the initial blood panel needed to test for heartworm and tick-borne illnesses (this is required as a matter of safety prior to beginning heartworm preventives). We are also happy to discuss any questions or concerns you have about parasite prevention at this time.