Tick-borne Diseases: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Pet
Ticks pose a risk to pets and people in Whitinsville and throughout Massachusetts. When these parasites feed on blood, they may also transmit serious diseases, such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis.
Tick-borne diseases can cause potentially debilitating symptoms and may lead to lasting health issues, especially if not caught and treated early. That’s why we want to make you aware of the big problems these small parasites can cause—and provide advice on how to help keep your pet (and yourself) protected.
Ticks in Whitinsville, MA
Ticks can be found around Whitinsville and the Blackstone Valley in both urban and rural areas. When you walk or hike with your pet, especially in parks, fields, or other wooded or grassy places, you may both pick up ticks. Ticks may even be hiding in your yard, especially under leaf litter, in the shade, and around the edges of the yard.
Some ticks are quite tiny, so you may not spot them, even if you’re looking for them. Ticks tend to hide on pets under fur, in ears, in skin folds, and in between paw pads.
There are around 900 tick species in the world, with just a few that pose a danger to pets and people in our area. The main ticks we have in and around Whitinsville are blacklegged (deer) ticks, American dog ticks, and brown dog ticks. Unfortunately, lone star ticks, which until recently were not a problem in our area, continue to expand their range northward and are now a concern here as well.
Ticks may remain active year-round in the Blackstone Valley.
Tick Diseases in Dogs
The ticks we have in Worcester County can transmit several diseases to dogs, including:
In 2020, 1 in 8 dogs (more than 41,500) tested were positive for Lyme disease in Massachusetts, and 1 in 5 dogs were positive in Worcester County.* So far in 2021, we’ve already had more than 1,000 dogs test positive for Lyme disease in our county, and almost 800 have tested positive for anaplasmosis.* The number of dogs with these diseases is increasing, which means cases of tick-borne diseases in people are likely on the rise as well.
Tick Diseases in Cats
Cats aren’t immune from ticks either. The parasites can cause several diseases in cats, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Other tick-borne diseases, such as tularemia, although rare, can be deadly in cats.
Even indoor-only cats can get ticks if the parasites hitch a ride inside on you or another pet.
Symptoms of Tick-borne Diseases in Pets
If you find a tick attached to your pet (or even if you don’t), let your PawSteps veterinarian know if you notice any of these signs of tick-borne diseases in your pet:
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Fatigue or weakness
- Lameness (which may shift from one leg to another)
- Loss of appetite or weight
- Pale gums
- Sensitivity to touch
- Stiff, swollen, or painful joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Trouble breathing
- Walking stiffly with an arched back
Pets with Lyme disease rarely get the characteristic bull’s-eye rash seen in some people.
Tick Diseases in People
Ticks can also transmit diseases to humans, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Powassan disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), tularemia, and alpha-gal syndrome (also known as mammalian meat or red meat allergy). Many of these diseases cause symptoms in people that are similar to signs of tick-borne diseases in pets, such as fatigue, fever, sore joints, and swollen lymph nodes. People with a tick-borne disease may also have a headache, muscle pains, and rash.
Prevention of Ticks and Tick Diseases
You can take several important steps to help protect your pet and yourself from ticks and the diseases they can spread:
- Keep your pet on a tick control product, as recommended by your PawSteps veterinarian.
- Use insect repellents with DEET or other ingredients effective at repelling ticks on yourself. Some DEET-containing products can also be used on children. DO NOT use these products on your dog or cat. DEET is especially toxic to both cats and dogs.
- Consider using a permethrin product on your clothes and shoes, as well as camping gear. Do not apply permethrin products to your skin.
- Avoid areas known for being infested with ticks.
- Try to stay out of tall grass and heavily wooded areas. This practice won’t prevent you from coming in contact with ticks, but it can help limit the number of ticks you encounter.
- If you’re planning to hike or camp, ask us which areas are high risk for ticks.
- Check yourself and your pet for ticks after you’ve spent time outside, especially if you’ve been in high-risk areas.
The best way to prevent ticks on your pet is to keep your pet on a tick control medication.
Ticks are expanding the areas they call home and becoming a bigger threat in Whitinsville, the Blackstone Valley, and surrounding areas. We want to help keep pets safe from these parasites, so if you find a tick on your pet, let us know.
Call us today to refill your pet’s tick control product or to make sure your pet is protected from ticks.
*Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Parasite prevalence maps. Massachusetts, Worcester County—tick borne disease agents, Lyme disease, dog; anaplasmosis, dog. Accessed April 2, 2021. capcvet.org/maps