By Mike Stewart
Kate began the summer training session in high country with the usual spirited, dying-to-hunt-cover enthusiasm she displayed during previous pre-season conditioning sessions in Colorado. A 4-year old, black female (Ruff x Pinny) owned by John Newman, past president of Ducks Unlimited, Kate is an experienced waterfowl retriever which would be expected given John’s position. This summer she was scheduled to learn quartering skills to flush upland birds, specifically grouse and pheasant. This requires physical exertion, stamina of duration while trying to detect scent to locate game. Things started well but faded quickly. My observations determined… sore pads due to the desert terrain we were working combined with being a bit over weight. Then she began chewing her knee joints. She showed signs of stiffness and sensitivity to her paws and joints.
I treated the knees with antifungal ointments and her pads with a “Tough Pad” product with little relief. She worked on soft grasses fairly well but her drive and intensity were gone.
On our mid-summer run back to Wildrose Oxford, she stopped eating, unusual for Kate, and her avoidance of food continued once she was tucked into her familiar lodging at the kennel. Lethargic, disinterested in going out, tired expressions… something besides sore pads was definitely wrong. One of our vet techs, Whitney Isbell, checked her over and decided it was best to have her examined by our vet. The physical revealed nothing but the blood test results later proved otherwise…
Rocky Mountain Tick Fever
- We have never experienced a case at the kennels in Oxford, Mississippi.
- Arkansas has a heavy presence of ticks during warm months and there are many cases of tick fever in that state but nothing to date at the training facility.
- In 7 years of training at our Colorado facility, I have never encountered a tick on a dog or me and we are always in heavy cover.
- My assumptions about her pads and chewing were wrong. Her condition was a sign of tick fever infection (see article below).
- She had been treated regularly with a flea & tick topical prevention medication but this product works to kill ticks that bite the dog. Once bitten, the dog can become infected. We need products to repel ticks as well.
Kate’s case has prompted this issue’s training article.
Sporting Dog Enthusiasts Should Be Aware of Regional Tick Diseases
Published by Nestle Purina
Sporting dog enthusiasts traveling to various regions of the country may encounter different tick species hosting diseases that can harm canine athletes. Coastland forests, mountain valleys and heartland plains contain different species of flora, wildlife and, unfortunately, ticks.
“Each region has its own tick population, just as each region has its own small mammal population,” says Dr. Rebecca Trout Fryxell, a medical and veterinary entomologist at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.
Being aware of various tick species, the tick-borne diseases they carry and taking precautions will help ensure the safety of your dog.
Caused by Ehrlichia canis bacteria and transmitted by the distinctly white-backed lone star tick, as well as the American dog, brown dog, black leg and Gulf Coast ticks, ehrlichiosis is most prevalent in the Southeastern United States. Affected dogs may be feverish, lethargic and experience loss of appetite, says Trout Fryxell.
Ehrlichiosis, which is often misdiagnosed as Lyme disease, may also be on the rise in the Northeastern United States as lone star ticks become more prevalent. Antibiotics are used to treat the disease, and steroids may be prescribed for severe cases. Two to 3 percent of the tick population carries the Ehrlichia bacteria, Trout Fryxell says.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Carried by the American dog tick and Rocky Mountain wood tick, cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are found throughout the contiguous United States and are especially prevalent in the West. Signs include nausea and stiffness while walking. Dogs should always be checked for ticks after leaving tick-heavy areas.
“Canines can’t really tell us how they’re feeling, so veterinarians must diagnose based on other factors, such as temperature and blood tests,” says Trout Fryxell.
Various bleeding problems can occur if Rocky Mountain spotted fever is not treated. Swift antibiotic treatment is suggested in order to reduce the risk of mortality.
Discovered just a few years ago in northwestern Missouri, the Heartland virus has made headlines for causing human fatalities in that state as well as Oklahoma. The virus has been found in lone star ticks native to this region. Ticks carrying the virus have been found on dogs, but there have not been reported cases or canine deaths attributed to it. “A reason for this may be because testing methods are still being developed,” Trout Fryxell says.
Signs are similar to ehrlichiosis, and because it is a virus, anti¬biotics are not effective in treating it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight human cases have been identified, but it is not yet known whether dogs can become infected by Heartland virus. Research is underway at the CDC to examine Heartland virus in dogs and livestock. The CDC recommends consulting your veterinarian if your dog exhibits any concerning signs.
“It’s still a legitimate concern in the Midwest because there have been some fatalities associated with that virus and we just don’t know a lot about it yet,” Trout Fryxell says.
Awareness and taking proper safety measures will help prevent tick-borne diseases from affecting your dog, giving you more enjoyable days together in the field.
Steps for Prevention
When you’re outdoors with your dog, and it’s not possible to avoid areas prone to tick populations, Dr. Rebecca Trout Fryxell, a medical and veterinary entomologist at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, suggests following these steps to decrease the chance of you and your dog developing a tick-borne disease.
- Be aware: “Mosquitoes remind you that they are there, whereas a tick doesn’t. Just being aware and knowing that you could be encountering ticks is the best thing you can do.”
- Use treatments and preventive medicines: “You can apply repellants to yourself and to your dog. Some topical insecticides and preventive oral medicines can be used at the same time. Consult your veterinarian to see which ones can be safely used together.”
- Check yourself and your dog when finished in the field: “You can’t always see ticks latch under the fur of an animal, so you should watch for a change in the behavior of your dog. If you notice your dog goes from happily running around in the woods to being lethargic, seek veterinary attention.”
Note: Kate was medicated with prescribed antibiotics for three weeks. She was confined to total rest for a week but it took every bit of three weeks (several days after the round of medication was complete) to see her back to her spry, enthusiastic self. The point is that if the infection is diagnosed and treated promptly the recovery, although slow, is promising. Kate, we are glad to say, will be afield this fall.
Special thanks to the health care professionals at Nestle Purina for the materials shared in this article.
TICKS!!! You just gotta hate ‘em…….