Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ticks, mosquitoes, Zika and more

It's that time of year... Actually in the Mid-Atlantic, it's kind of year-round, but this is the time we and our pets spend more time outside and notice the annoying critters more.  Ticks, fleas and mosquitoes! While I'm a veterinarian and like most animals, these insects are not included.

Ticks transmit many different types of disease: Lyme disease is probably the most well-known, but there's also Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichia and more.  There's even a rare condition transmitted by ticks that makes people have a severe allergic reaction to meat.  My husband has decided based on that fact alone that he hates ticks.

Preventatives for dogs and cats have gotten better through the years, it started with Frontline and now there are tons of different products on the market.  My favorites are the new ones, the pills/treats that taste similar to heart worm preventative and are effective against fleas, ticks and mange : )  It makes a veterinarian happy.

There's also a great product that I have been using the past five or so years which is a permethrin.  This is marketed under different brands, but it prevents fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.  It wants me to hang extra close to my dog on walks.  They actually make the same thing, permethrin which you can get at REI.  This product IS NOT to be sprayed on humans, like Deep Woods Off.  I don't like the idea of Deet on my child, or strong chemicals, but with everything and more that is coming out on Zika virus and my knowledge of what the mosquito, tick and even flea vectors can transmit, makes me want to have strong protection.

The permethrin from REI is meant to be sprayed on clothes and will last a couple of months.  I actually found out that permethrin is EXACTLY what the US military uses for all of their uniforms when they are being deployed to tropical locations.  The service member who shared this with me said that when they are spraying the uniforms, it is rather interesting to see a whole field of uniforms drying in a field.  The compound is not something you would want to spray on yourself and is actually lethal to cats, but once it dries it is a "tight binding molecule" meaning it won't bind to or rub off on other things, including your skin.

Let me share a few facts about Lyme disease and disease transfer in ticks that I have just had cause to answer in the past week.  Ticks do not fly.  They do not have wings.  They actually have heat sensors and jump towards heat.  That is why on people they are typically found in warm, moist areas after they have climbed there on your skin.  In dogs and cats, we typically find them on the paws, armpits, groin and head because these are the parts that have the closest contact with the ground and leaf matter.  Also, it takes up to 6 months to show signs of Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases.  This means that if you find a tick on you today, it could take up to 6 months to have symptoms.  In people, they have a typical "target lesion".  Dogs and cats don't have this.  Dogs present with lethargy, anorexia, limping and fever as the more common signs.  Cats rarely get Lyme disease or other tick borne disease (they are pretty good at getting ticks off of themselves before they get disease).

There is actually a laboratory where you can send ticks to get Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tested for tick borne diseases.  This is not very common and due to pressure on trying to keep healthcare affordable, etc, it is not popular among the human medical community, but it is something you can look into if you are interested.

Besides fleas being totally disgusting and causing severe enough anemias that dogs and cats could need blood transfusions, they also can transmit diseases to people, including Bartonella which I will talk about further in another blog.

On another note... I never thought I would be accused of being a thief and certainly not by my two year old.  Last night, as I was getting ready to give him a bath, he was really procrastinating.  I told him that too.  I know I will probably hear that word again from him at some point because I tried to explain it to him.  He doesn't like toe lint or toe jam in the bathtub.  So we try to clean it out of his toes before he gets in.  It works on his fine motor skills and I don't have to do it, so I'm glad cleaning it out is a skill he has learned.  Last night though, he was taking his time and very slowly performing the task.  Mommy, in a rush, went ahead and started to try to help him.  He then shouted out, "Stop!  Thief!"  I wasn't sure I heard him correctly so I continued to try to help him, "Stop thief!  My toe jam!"  Later on when I was trying to think where would he have learned this phrase, my husband reminded me it was in his Charlie Brown book when Woodstock's nest got stolen.  So I guess he was using it appropriately and I guess I am a toe lint thief...

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