TICKS AND BILIARY (Babesiosis)
By Susan Holdsworth
Even if your dog has dark coloured fur, it is still quite easy to find ticks, especially when the ticks are coming to the end of their seven day blood sucking and feeding cycle as they are fat and filled with blood (blue in colour. There are several types of ticks found in South Africa and all are from the arachnid family (same as a spider – eight legs)
Life cycle of a tick – this can take up to a year to complete in a warm climate
- Eggs are laid by a female tick on the ground and then she dies. She can lay from 2,000 to 18,000 eggs. The male tick dies after he has mated.
- Larvae – a six legged larvae emerges which looks just like an adult except for having only six legs. The larvae needs to find a host in order to grow and survive. Once fed, the larvae drops off the host and stays on the ground until it has grown into the next stage.
- Nymph – an eight legged nymph emerges. The cycle is the same as for the larvae – finds a host, feeds and then drops off to grow into the next stage.
- Adult – the female attaches herself to a host and feeds for about 24 hours before mating and finally dropping off the animal to lay her eggs and die.
- While looking for a host, the tick will crawl to the top of a blade of grass, sit with its legs extended and just simply wait for a host to go by – human or animal. The then latch on, crawl to suitable site and start feeding.
The mouth of a tick is quite complex and is designed to prevent easy removal from the skin of the host. The most common mistake dog owners make when trying to remove a tick is that they leave part of the head of the tick behind in the skin. The head section may cause secondary infection and an abscess. There are several suggestions on how to remove ticks and the most effective one is to use a sharp pair of tweezers. Put the tweezers as close to the dog’s skin and the tick’s head as possible and slowly but firmly putt the tick straight out (not at an angle). Be very careful not to take the tick off with your fingers as you may squeeze the contents of the tick’s abdomen into the dog and cause disease or infection.
Ticks carry numerous parasites which causes diseases in animals (biliary in dogs) and humans. There are several ticks that produce toxic saliva and may cause large wounds or secondary infections with severe life threatening diseases. It is advisable to maintain monthly tick control to ensure your dogs are tick free throughout the year.
BILIARY FEVER (Babesiosis)
Biliary fever may be fatal to your dog within 24 to 48 hours!
The biliary parasite (Babesia species) is transmitted by ticks infecting the red blood cells (similar to malaria) causing anaemia (loss of red blood cells) and potentially damaging the kidneys and liver. A single parasite may multiply to 64 parasites and each one will infest a new blood cell. The red blood cell will die when the parasite leaves it. These dead blood cells produce toxic breakdown products and are transformed by the liver into bile and then excreted in the dog’s stool.
Biliary, which your dog can so easily pick up from a tick, is covered under the accident section of your policy, which is a good thing, as depending on the severity of the symptoms and complexity of the case, this can result in costing anything between R900 and R4,000.00.
The kidneys may also be affected as they need to filter the toxic breakdown products (dark brown urine). If kidney and liver damage occur, the prognosis is poor and may result is a painful death for your dog.
- Loss of appetite
- Listless and lethargic
- Pale gums (mucous membranes) and insides of the eyelids (conjunctiva) – almost white
- Heartbeat is rapid
- Dark or red urine
- Severe lethargy
- Deep laboured breathing or panting
- Rapid and weak pulse
TRANSPORT THE DOG IMMEDIATELY TO NEAREST VETERINARY HOSPITAL
A blood smear by the veterinarian will make a clear diagnosis if the dog has biliary fever enabling treatment to start immediately. This will include medication to kill the parasite and a blood transfusion. Caught early, biliary can be successfully treated with no further medical problems. If the disease has progressed for over 3 days without treatment, the prognosis worsens by the hour and death may occur due to anaemia and liver or kidney failure.
Stains around eyes and mouth may affect dogs of all breeds; however, they are more noticeable in white-colored dogs such as bichons, Malteses, white poodles or Westies.
Sometimes the foul odour will be the result of an infection or other medical problem located in the canine's mouth, while in other cases the problem will be elsewhere in the body, simply releasing the foul smell through the animal's mouth.
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