Tick-tock, it’s tick time again


SUMMER SCOURGETicks transmit disease-causing parasites into animal and human blood systems.

The Vet's View
Conal Finnerty

As I write this, I can feel the rapidly approaching longest day of the year. It feels like time speeds up the older one get. Just as the years go by, so come around each and every year, those annual chores at the start of summer – the annual trips to the bog (for those of us crazy enough), gardening, cutting the lawn, silage cutting, hay saving and the many other annual things that have to be done at this time.
One of those jobs for pet owners is of course the annual look-out for that nasty parasite, the common brown or castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus), who makes his presence known and felt this time of year.
This is a sneaky little sucker (pardon the pun), as it can indirectly cause serious disease in our domestic pets, as well as farm animals of course. Sneaky in so far as it is a vector for such diseases as Lyme disease (caused by the spirochaete spiral organism Borrelia burgdorferi), Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis to name but a few.
Tick infestations in domestic pets are of themselves generally not that serious. However, when the tick is in the process of feasting on the pet’s blood, it transmits these more serious parasites into the pet’s blood system, and this can lead to potentially very serious disease.
Lyme disease in domestic animals is characterised by a number of clinical signs, coupled with a definitive diagnosis by means of a specialised blood test.
Clinical signs suggestive of Lyme include (but are not limited to) shifting lameness, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, generalised stiffness, joint pain and joint swelling.
Some more serious presentations can develop into kidney or multiple organ failures, cardiovascular problems and neurological problems. The earlier Lyme is diagnosed the better potential outcome as once the parasitic gets well established in the animals system, the more likely it is to result in prolonged and chronic problems.
There are numerous products available to treat tick infestations, some being more efficacious than others, Topical treatments need to be applied correctly and the manufacture’s guidelines adhered to strictly. Treatment should continue throughout the tick season which in some years can extend as far as October in mild autumns. In areas such as lakes, rivers, woodland, forests or marshy terrain or areas with high deer populations, treatment for ticks may have to be quite frequent.
Remember also that our domestic pets can transfer ticks to us humans, and we can suffer similar disease as pets. Long-haired dogs and cats are particularly good at picking up ticks when out and about this time of year, so perhaps giving these pets a good brush down when they come into the house to help minimise the potential of bring ticks indoors.
Let tick treatment of your beloved pet be one of those chores you should not forget this time of year; it may save both them and yourself from potentially serious infection with Lyme disease. And while you’re at it, spare a thought for us poor souls with lines and lines of un-footed turf to tackle this month.

Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment.