Tick-Borne Diseases: An Overview

Tick-borne diseases (TBD) are fairly common amongst ex-racing greyhounds and can cause serious illness or death if left untreated.

Almost every ex-racer has been exposed, but not all develop disease. Greyhounds can carry the disease for years, but only show signs when a stressful event such as surgery occurs, or when the disease has broken down their immune systems. Please keep this in mind if your dog suffers unexplained illness – it could be a lurking tick-borne disease that is finally showing signs.

PREVENTION

  • Monthly or bi-monthly application of tick preventative (Frontline)
  • Brush daily, or run hands over coat to check after walks or outdoors activity
  • Avoid brush, high grass, woods – check thoroughly between toes, in ears, under arms, and around neck after being in such areas
  • If you do find a tick: Soak gauze in alcohol, rest it gently on the tick’s body, put small tweezers (or special tick-tweezers) as close to the tick’s mouth/head and the dog’s skin as possible, pull gently away from skin. Ticks attach with claw-like mouth parts—Never squeeze or remove the body from the head. Put the tick in a small container of alcohol to be sure it is dead before disposal.

SYMPTOMS

  • high fever
  • depression or lethargy
  • anorexia
  • anemia
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • loss of appetite or body weight
  • vomiting
  • nose bleeds, skin hemorrhage, or any other unusual bleeding
  • swollen legs or lymph nodes
  • nervous system disorders, such as stiff gait, head tilt, seizures or twitching
  • limping, particularly alternating between limbs
  • pale gums and/or inner eye membranes
  • dark urine, excessive thirst, when combined with one or more of the above (as with all of these symptoms, this can reflect other problems, i.e. urinary tract infection).
  • seizures

TESTING
Greyhound Welfare highly recommends that your newly adopted greyhound be tested for tick-borne disease through North Carolina State University, currently considered by many greyhound experts to be the gold standard in tick disease testing. The IDEXX SNAP-3 or SNAP-4 test used by most vets does not test for babesia, which, together with erlichia, is the most common TBD seen in racing greyhounds. Thus, it is preferable to run a full panel. NC State has also pioneered polmerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that look specifically for organism DNA and may be useful in confirming an active infection rather than mere exposure. A full tick panel through NC State runs approximately $90, plus shipping and anything your vet may charge to perform the blood draw. There is a separate cost and protocol for PCR testing.

For instructions on sending samples to NC State (print and take to your vet): https://cvm.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/VBDDL-Test-Request-Form-June-2016.pdf

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

For more information: http://www.merckvetmanual.com