Waiting in the long grass

Outdoor Living

TICK TERRAIN Cats and dogs that wander through summer woodland and long grass are at risk of picking up ticks.

The vet's view
Conal Finnerty

As we look forward to the warmer longer days of the approaching summer, this time of year can bring its own worries when it comes to the activity of certain creepy crawlies, especially for our beloved pets.
One of the more prevalent and worrying little buggers is the common tick or brown tick, which in itself doesn’t directly pose any particular risk to our pets but indirectly can indeed pose an important risk due to its ability to infect pets with a number of parasitic organisms. The most important and potentially most dangerous of these causes Lyme disease, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
Skeldale clinics are already seeing an increasing number of pets present with ticks attached to their skin, and there is already an increasing demand for potions and lotions to help deal with the brown tick. I always advise people that once the weather begins to in any way start to get mild and there is any stretch in the days, its time to think about routine treatment for ticks. This is especially important in this part of the world, where there is a great deal of bush and shrub land and lots of waterways, as well as deer (a favoured host of the brown tick).
People who walk their dogs in woodland or through long grass – or indeed cats who hunt outdoors in these types of terrains – are especially at risk of picking up ticks which can in some unfortunate cases, lead to the development of Lyme disease, a very serious life threatening disease, which can become chronic and cause long-term ill health.
Symptoms of Lyme disease can be very varied, initially subtle and appear weeks to months after tick infestation. This can be a reason for under-diagnosing of Lyme in domestic pets.
Any animal showing signs of lameness, swollen glands, joint swelling/pain, fatigue and inappetence amongst other vague signs should be considered a potential victim of Borrelia burgdorferi.
Other less-common presentations involve kidney damage and central-nervous-system clinical signs. The big problem with linking symptoms to Lyme infection is the latency of clinical presentation – as I have said, symptoms can present months or even years after initial infection. Blood tests are the only definitive diagnostic tool, and they should be considered if your pet presents with the suite of clinical signs mentioned above.
Unfortunately, with diseases like Lyme, sometimes the treatment can be limited in its effectiveness, so the best advice is to treat pets preventively during the time of year when ticks are active. For me, that’s any time from April to October.
There are numerous preparations and tablets available nowadays for the prevention of tick infestation in pets. It’s a question of discussing which one is most appropriate with your vet.

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.