There are more than 650 species of ticks in the world. The distribution area of ticks is continuously increasing due to global warming and they cause many infectious diseases.
Therefore, you can protect yourself and your animal friend by learning about the diseases caused by ticks and the method of prevention. In this article, you can learn two common diseases caused by ticks.
Which tick species are common in Germany and what diseases do they cause?
* FSME: Früh-Sommer Meningoencephalitis (Tick-borne encephalitis virus)
At which season are ticks active?
Ticks are active when the temperature is above 10 degrees from spring to autumn (between April and November). On winter days, they can remain alive without feeding for a long time.
These dates are important to us because we are most at risk during these tick-active periods.
It’s not very common but it does happen that you may bring ticks to home with yur christmas tree.
Do you know?
Ticks feed on the host’s blood. Therefore, anemia (bloodlessness) can develop in animals with tick infestation!
Who is at risk?
Although everyone is susceptible to tick bites, hunters, campers, forest workers or those living in woodlands are at greater risk.
What is the course of these diseases in dogs?
Lyme disease in dogs
After a tick bite, bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi spread through to tissue, and cause Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is currently the most commonly diagnosed vector-borne disease in humans. Although infections are very common in dogs, dogs develop clinical symptoms much less frequently than humans. According to Cornell University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, only 5-10% of dogs infected with Lyme bacteria show clinical symptoms.
Your dog cannot directly transmit Lyme disease to you. Because this bacteria (Borrelia) and also ticks cannot survive long indoors. A tick carrying this bacteria is transmit the disease. So, even indirectly, there is little chance that the tick that can pass through your dog will infect you with this disease.
For the transmission of the bacteria, the tick must remain attached to the host for 24 to 48 hours. Symptoms start two to five months after tick exposure. Common symptoms are:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint swelling (joint that closest to the tick bite)
- Loss of appetite
- Serious kidney disease. Some dog breeds are diagnosed of having a kidney problem due to Lyme disease. These breeds are Golden Retriever, Labrador and Bernese Mountain.
If the disease is not recognized and becomes chronic, an irregular heartbeat and neurological problems may develop.
Vaccination against Lyme
In Europe, vaccines are available only for dogs (and no vaccines are available for humans) because the diversity of infectious strains makes it so difficult to produce a recombinant product that offers protection against all different Borrelia species.
Antibiotic treatments are mostly effective in early phase of the disease and it will lessen the clinical symptoms. However, even after long period-antibiotic treatment, infection may be persistent in dogs.
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
A Flaviviridae virus causes Tick Borne Encephalitis (TBE) diseases, also locally known as FSME (Früh Sommer Meningoencephalitis). It is thought that up to 5% of ticks carry TBE virus.
TBE disease is very dangerous for humans, after affecting the nervous system. So if you are in an endemic area, you should get vaccination against TBE.
While the risk area for TBE in Germany was 129 cases in 2007, it increased to 161 in 2019.
In dogs, TBE symptoms may occur between 7 and 14 days. However, dogs are rarely show clinical symptoms. Neurological symptoms are progressive and may lead to death.
- Elevated body temperature
- Tremors (shivering)
- Facial paresis
- Lack of muscle coordination
Treatment of TBE diseases is often based on symptoms and there is no vaccination for dogs against TBE.
How do I protect myself and my dog?
First you need to protect yourself and your dog from tick bites. If you go to areas where ticks are present, you should:
- Wear long-sleeved outfit such as long-sleeved blouse or insert your long pants into socks. Wearing light clothes can make it easier to see ticks.
- Use tick repellent spray to protect the exposed areas of your body
- Protect yourself all year. Keep in mind that you are at risk all year, even though it is between Spring and Autumn when ticks are most active.
In the dry period after heavy rain, ticks are more common than normal.
There is a TBE vaccine for humans. If you live in an area where this disease is often observed, it is important that you are vaccinated against it at the right time.
The vaccine for Lyme disease is only for dogs, unfortunately we don’t have the vaccine for humans!
There are many anti-tick options for your dog. Examples include topical drops, special leashes or oral medications. My suggestion is to apply the anti-tick product of your choice, at regular intervals all year. Ticks in some areas may have gained resistance to specific product ingredient. So it will be in your best interest to use the product “recommended by your own veterinarian” 🙂
If you have spent time in nature, carefully search your dog’s hair and belongings before entering the house. Ticks can be carried from your dog’s hair, camping gear, clothes into your home without you realizing it.
Where can the ticks hide in your dog?
Ticks like dark and moisture. That’s why there are places in your dog’s body to look after, especially after you go out.
How to safely remove a tick?
- Grasp the tick with tweezers as close as possible to the skin. It is recommended to use special tick tweezers for dogs.
- Carefully pull up the tick.
- Don’t squeeze the tick!
- After removing the tick, disinfect the puncture site with rubbing alcohol, soap or water.
Ticks cause many diseases in both animals and humans. So we should protect both ourselves and our four-legged friend from ticks not only in summer, but all year.
(2) Hellenbrand, W., Kreusch, T., Böhmer, MM, Wagner-Wiening, C., Dobler, G., Wichmann. O., & Altmann, D. (2019), Epidemiology of Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE) in Germany, 2001182018. Pathogens, 8 (2), 42.
(3) Bjöersdorff A: Borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis. In: Arthropod-borne Diseases. 2002, Sci. Proc. BSAVA Congress, Birmingham, pp 185-6NatureRemoveTicks