Don’t let seasonal hitchhikers make your pets or livestock sick
“We have started to see them on horses a few months ago and we started seeing them on dogs pretty good, so I think there’s definitely going to be a lot of ticks this year,” said Dr. Melissa Masters DVM, owner of Masters Veterinary Clinic.
The number of ticks we see each year and the infectious pathogens they carry are different each season depending on the weather, rainfall and climate.
The most common ticks in South Dakota are the American dog tick, deer and wood ticks, which are active from late April until October. Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease and the dog and wood ticks, Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks can also transmit Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis which are both bacterial infections, and Babesiosis a parasitic blood infection. Infection of a disease is more likely to occur if the tick has been feeding from its host for 24 hours or longer.
“A lot of the diseases are quite pathogenic and cause some pretty significant short and long-term issues, so keeping the ticks off of them is definitely really important,” said Dr. Masters.
Tick-borne illnesses can cause joint pain and swelling, rashes, lameness, fever, lethargy and enlarged lymph nodes. These symptoms can progress into kidney failure and can also cause long-lasting cardiac and neurological effects. Unfortunately, vaccines are not yet available for humans or animals.
To protect your dogs and cats Dr. Marsters said, “what we recommend most often is Seresto collars. They are the most cost-effective and they last the longest. The only thing I will caution is there are a lot of counterfeit Seresto collars out there so make sure you purchase them through your veterinarian.”
She recommended pour-on external parasite control for horses and cattle like Ultra Boss which also protects against mosquitos and flies.
Cattle that are shipped into the area from the south can often come with tick fever or other tick-borne illnesses, said Dr. Masters.
Tick fever has been a threat to American ranchers for generations due to its ability to quickly spread. The disease caused enormous cattle losses in the late 1800s and early 1900s and spread from the Mexican border north to Nebraska and Kansas with large cattle drives from Texas and other southern states to Midwest markets.
The disease causes anemia, aggressiveness, rapid breathing, weight loss, decreased milk production, and often leads to death in cattle not previously exposed.
With quarantines, chemical dipping vats and mounted patrol inspectors known as ‘tick riders’, tick fever has almost been eradicated from the United States, with the exception of a quarantine buffer zone between Texas and Mexico that extends over 500 miles from Del Rio, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico.
A Brazilian company Decoy Smart Control, has recently developed a non-toxic option for killing ticks on livestock. The product uses two species of fungi that kill ticks but are safe to cattle, humans and the environment. It can be applied directly to cattle and fields. The fungi attaches to ticks, kills them and then reproduces, creating a chain effect. The product has been tested on over 100 million animal on 800 properties in Brazil and should be available in 2023, pending Brazilian regulatory approval.