In the bat of an eyelid, our parasite series has reached its 6 month. In the last instalment of the first series, we revisit the topic of ticks and fleas with the focus on the microscopic organisms they transmit in dogs and cats.
Tick-borne diseases (Dogs)
How many of you have heard of dogs infected with tick fever? It is indeed a very common diagnosis in Southeast Asia since the vector (or disease carrier) is the brown dog tick, a widely prevalent insect in this region. The real culprit is the microscopic blood parasite that is carried by ticks from infected dogs to other dogs through their saliva .
Engorged tick on dog
These blood borne micro-organisms are from the Babesia family: Babesia canis or Babesia gibsoni (pronounced Bar-bee-sia) which is a single-celled organism, or from another family: Ehrlichia (Er-lee-ki-ur), a type of bacteria.
Babesia gibsoni shown by arrows
Ehrlichia canis highlighted by arrow
Transmission of Ehrlichia occurs when the brown dog tick feeds on blood of dogs. In the process, they carry the parasite from infected dogs to uninfected dogs. Babesia gibsoni, on the other hand, can spread via ticks and dog bites.
Ehrlichia : Causes lowered red blood cell and platelet count. Often results in nose bleed. It can affect all organs but the more commonly presented symptoms include inappetance, weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, blood in stools, failure to put on weight, paleness of membranes, fever.
Babesiosis : Symptoms are similar to that caused by Ehrlichia.
Ehrlichia : Ehrlichia can be diagnosed by a simple in-house test to check for antibodies to this bacterium. If the test is positive, it means that your dog had been exposed to it. In early stages of infection where the body has yet to respond, blood can be sent to veterinary laboratories to check for DNA or low antibody levels.
Babesia: Examination of the red blood cells or checking for antibodies or DNA at veterinary laboraties can help diagnose it.
Accurate identification of the causative agent of tick fever determines the treatment of choice. Antibiotics or certain injections can be given for eliminating different agents. There are severe cases where an animal presents with more life threatening symptoms and blood transfusions; intravenous fluid therapy and supportive therapy are not uncommon in such situations.