FLEAS – Everyone has heard of fleas and the trouble they can cause. It just takes one tiny trouble maker to set up camp on your pet and in your home to bring on itching, hair loss etc. These little jumping parasites can also cause other concerning issues that may not be as well known to the public such as Tapeworms (discussed in part 1 of 4), the Bubonic Plague and Murine Typhus. The Bubonic plaque is a zoonotic disease (transmitted from animals to humans) that can be carried and transmitted by the flea. Transmission is extremely rare and there are few reported cases, however it is possible. This infection, which is caused from a bite from an infected flea, enters through the skin and travels through the lymphatics. Signs of infection can be swollen lymph nodes, chills, fever, seizures, and vomiting blood. Antibiotics prescribed by your doctor would be used to treat this zoonotic infection. Last but not least, Murine Typhus is a bacterial infection that can be passed from flea to human. It is often confused for a viral illness because people don’t realize they have been bitten by the fleas to begin with. It is most commonly found in southern California, Texas and Hawaii. Symptoms include headache, fever, chills, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and chills. Again antibiotics prescribed by your doctor are the course of treatment for Murine Typhus.
TICKS – Another type of parasite that should be concerning to pet owners are ticks. These creepy little blood suckers can latch on to your pet or to you and spread some very serious infections. Ticks thrive in environments with sandy soils, tall grasses, trees, and rivers. An area high in deer populations will also see a high population of ticks. Yet don’t think if you don’t hit the hiking trails that you won’t cross paths with these clingy creatures. Your pets can still pick them up in your very own backyard or neighborhood. There are many diseases that can be spread to humans from ticks, two very serious ones being Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lyme disease is the most common tick borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a bacterial disease transmitted from the Deer tick which can most commonly be found in forests with a leaf litter habitat on the ground. Early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and depression. The most characteristic and first sign of the disease is a rash called Erythema Migrans. This rash takes on a bull’s eye appearance and usually appears in 7 to 14 days after exposure to the infected tick. If caught in the early stages antibiotics prescribed by your doctor are used as treatment and are usually successful. If left untreated Lyme disease becomes difficult to treat and will affect the joints, heart and central nervous system. Another serious and zoonotic disease ticks can spread to humans is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The American Dog tick and Rocky Mountain Wood Tick are the culprits who can pass this life threatening disease to us humans. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most frequently and lethal reported rickettsial disease in North America and kills 3 to 5 % of infected people. Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, flu like symptoms, headaches and a characteristic spotted rash. The rash usually starts at the wrists and ankles and may spread to torso. A strict antibiotic regiment is the treatment of choice for many physicians for this life threatening disease and is started at first suspicion of possible infection. Tick prevention can be purchased at your pet’s regular veterinary facility and should be applied according to the label unless otherwise specified by your vet. Typically prevention involves a topical medication applied once monthly to your pet. Tick collars offer some support, but are best used in conjunction with a topical preventative. Consult your veterinarian before using multiple products at once. As for humans it is recommended to wear tall socks or pants when hiking in an ideal tick environment. It is always a good idea to check yourself and your pet after any excursion into a wooded area. There are also tick repellants and tick repellant clothing available for humans.
SCABIES – This is a zoonotic skin infection that can infect animals and people. Unlike the diseases spread by ticks, scabies is not life threatening. However, it can be very bothersome. The culprit for this highly itchy and annoying infection is a mite called Sarcoptes Scabies that burrows under the skin. While not directly visible to the naked eye Sarcoptes Scabies can be seen under a microscope and is usually diagnosed by a simple skin scraping if suspected in your pet. A skin scraping simply involves scraping a suspected location on a pet with a surgical blade. The sample is then placed on a slide and examined under a microscope by either the veterinarian or veterinary technician. Scabies can be transmitted by objects but is most commonly transmitted through skin to skin contact. Symptoms include intense itching and severe allergic reaction. In humans, linear or s-shaped tracks can be seen under the skin. It takes 2 to 6 weeks for the symptoms to appear after infection. Treatment in humans usually involves a topical of a Permethrin or an oral medication Ivermectin to kill the mites and is sometimes paired with antihistamines to help control itching as determined by your physician. Treatment for your pet after diagnosis can be discussed with your pet’s veterinarian.
- Chelsea Weishampel, RVT – Primary Pet Care