Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases: An Overview

Ticks are a year round nuisance.  Ticks don’t jump or fall from trees looking for their host.  Rather, ticks climb up to higher places off the ground and wait for a passerby so the tick can grab on to the new host.

Although ticks are year round, Fall is a particularly bad time for ticks (and fleas).  The cooler temperatures and shorter days cause these pesky parasites to seek warmer places to live.  That means your greyhound is a prime home.  Leaf piles, high grass, bushes, brush undergrowth are all prime places for ticks (and fleas) to hide.

PREVENTION

  • Monthly or bi-monthly application of a tick preventative
  • Avoid brush, high grass, woods, bushes – stick to clear trails and sidewalks
  • Brush daily; run hands over coat to check after walks or outdoor activities; check your greyhound thoroughly between and under toes, in ears, under arms, in groin and around neck

IF YOU FIND A TICK ON YOUR GREYHOUND

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.

  • USING TWEEZERS:  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.
  • USING A TICK REMOVER:  Soak gauze in alcohol, rest it gently on the tick’s body, gently press the tick remover on your greyhound’s skin at the site of the tick, slide the notch of the tick remover under the tick, pull gently away from the skin.
  • AFTER REMOVING THE TICK:  Disinfect the bite area with alcohol, wash your hands thoroughly, monitor your greyhound’s behavior and the bite site for any signs of infection or illness.

TICK BORNE DISEASES (TBD)

Tick-borne diseases (TBD) are fairly common among 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.

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 FOR TICK BORNE DISEASE

Greyhound Welfare highly recommends that a newly adopted greyhound be tested for tick-borne disease through North Carolina State University Vector Borne Disease Division, currently considered by many greyhound experts to be the gold standard in tick disease testing. The quick vet in-office tests (IDEXX SNAP-3 or SNAP-4) used by most vets does not test for babesia  along with erlichia, are the most common TBD seen in racing greyhounds. Thus, it is preferable to run a full NC State PCR tick panel. The NC State PCR tick panel looks specifically for organism DNA and may be useful in confirming an active infection rather than mere exposure.

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