#ForTheLovePets- The Dangers of Ticks to Your Animals

By Samantha Matthews, DVM (Hons) of Trinity Animal Clinic 

Sponsored by Massy Farm & Garden 

One of the biggest problems companion animal and livestock owners in Barbados encounter is tick infestation. These ectoparasites pose a danger to the animals they reside on, not only directly from blood loss but indirectly as vectors of deadly tick-borne diseases. These tick diseases are one of the leading causes of death among animals in Barbados. 

The most common tick-borne diseases diagnosed in Barbados are Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis, all of which are more commonly known as “tick fever”. These infections can actually occur concurrently with one another and affect both dogs, cats, and even livestock. Some of the most common symptoms of “tick fever” in our companion animals are lethargy, pale gums, inappetence, increased body temperature, and vomiting. The symptoms of tick fever in your livestock animals may present themselves a bit differently, with one of the most common being “red water” (red coloured urine) as well as fever, lethargy, and inappetence. If your animal is exhibiting any of these, your veterinarian should be called as soon as possible.

The vet would perform a blood test and a diagnostic test to determine if any of the tick-borne diseases are present. The blood test would illustrate if your animal may have any blood abnormalities as a result of these diseases such as anaemia, which, if severe enough, may require a blood transfusion. Once diagnosed, your animal would be started on a course of antibiotics, and in some cases, a steroid. 

Ticks not only transmit these diseases but if an animal is too heavily infested, this can lead to blood loss, causing anemia. When an animal has a high tick burden, they typically have pale gums and become increasingly lethargic, and if left untreated, it can eventually lead to death. 

Many of the diseases transmitted by ticks are Zoonotic, meaning they can be spread to humans. The most commonly known one is Lyme disease, which is not prominent in Barbados. Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis are all zoonotic. Ticks may also cause paralysis but there have been no reported cases of tick paralysis in Barbados. 

Did you know all it takes is one infected tick to bite your animal and they can become infected with these deadly diseases? These tick-borne illnesses are relatively easy to prevent. There are many products that can be purchased at veterinarians islandwide used to kill ticks. An excellent product used for tick prevention in companion animals is Nexgard chewables. This is a singly sold tablet based on weight, which lasts for one month. Other chewable products are also available. Frontline® topical applications can also be used for dogs and cats. For livestock, Taktik®or Bayticol® solutions are useful. Taktik® should be used under the direction of a veterinarian and following labelled directions. These topical agents should not be used within two weeks of livestock being sent to slaughter or used for milk production. 

In addition to treating your animals, a vital step that often is overlooked is treating the environment. It is recommended that you spray your environment with pesticides the same day the animal is treated and repeat spraying in two weeks. This helps disrupt the life cycle of the ticks and ensures your animal and environment are safe for a few months. Please note, however, when treating the environment, your animals should not be in contact with the areas for 12-24 hours. 

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