In Virginia, I don’t worry about lions or tigers, it’s the ticks that scare me!
Rickettsial diseases can make humans and dogs very sick, and one that is tick born can kill--Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). Rickettsia is a bacteria which must live inside a living cell, unlike other bacteria that can be cultured. The Lone Star tick, with its telltale white spot on its back, carries RMSF. There has been a dramatic increase of lone star ticks because of the explosion of the deer population. North Carolina, for example, used to consider the Lone Star tick rare, now they are more common. Very few ticks actually carry RMSF, just one in 1,000. Above is a female Lone Star tick next to a dime coin.
The American Dog and Brown Dog tick (the brown dog tick is unique in that its entire life cycle can be indoors) carries Erlichiosis. It is a disease not being diagnosed as frequently, and Dr David Walker, of the U. of TX Galveston says his research indicates that it is 100 times more prevalent than the CDC reports (human cases). Dogs also get Erlichiosis. Left is a female American Dog tick.
Anaplasmosis, an emerging disease, was first identified in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but it is found in the southern U.S. too. Anaplasmosis is carried by the Deer tick. It often has a co-infection with Lymme disease.
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, Edward Breitschwerdt DVM of NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, and a tick expert, has been studying Bartinella, which is carried by lice, fleas, biting flies, and ticks. His research on Cat Scratch Fever led to the discovery of Bartinella and from initially finding two species, in less than 10 years, he has now identified 26 species. This ominous looking creature to the right is a female Deer tick.
Both humans and dogs are susceptible to this bacteria. Dr Breitschwerdt’s findings could be very interesting for dog owners down the road. His research indicates that there are diseases that can be caused by Bartinella like Endocarditis (an infection of the heart valve), arthritis, neurologic disease, and can infect the immune cells. He is conducting more research to study this. Right now there is no treatment for Bartinella as they have not figured out yet what this bacteria is susceptible to. The Deer tick is a carrier, but most ticks do not carry the disease.
More to come on ticks!
Sources: Edward Breitschwerdt DVM, NC State College of Veterinary Medicine
Dr David Walker, U of TX Galveston, Chair of Pathology Dept., was at NC State