2021 2400th Street

Atlanta, IL 61723

Phone (217) 648-5800

Fax (217) 648-5808

Monday - Friday 7:30am - 5:00pm
Saturday             8:00am - 12:00pm

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This past season consisted of one of the warmest winters we have ever experienced followed by one of the hottest summers on record.  With this combination it has also been an unusually challenging tick season, as many have noticed.  Many of the dogs and cats we see coming in for routine appointments have had several attached and engorged ticks despite owners' attempts to do daily tick checks.  Ticks themselves are unsightly and definitely considered a nuisance in the summer months, but the bigger concern they have the potential to spread diseases to both pets and humans. Tick borne diseases prevalent in Illinois include but are not limited to Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), and Babesiosis.  Although Lyme disease is by far the most common of these, the risk of other diseases should not be completely ignored.



Lyme disease is a bacteria that lives in the tick and transferred via saliva when the tick attaches to feed.  Of the tick borne diseases, it is the most common that infects humans.  Historically, Lyme disease has been limited to the eastern coastal states and upper Midwest (Wisconsin and Minnesota) due to the normal habitats of its carrier, the deer tick.  Recently, however, the deer tick population has spread across the northern states and Midwest taking the prevalence of Lyme disease with it.  In addition to deer tick migration, the unusually hot summer caused a decrease in the population of the tick's preferred host, the white footed mouse, forcing ticks to search for other sources of blood meals. Common signs seen in dogs are fever, lethargy, and "shifting leg lameness" (limping moves from one limb to the other).  In severe cases the kidneys and nervous system can be affected.  Diagnosis is performed using a small blood sample and can be completed in about ten minutes at the time of your appointment.



Ehrliciosis is also a bacteria transmitted by tick saliva and is usually spread by the brown dog tick.  This species of tick is found everywhere in the United States but documented cases of Ehrliciosis have been in the southeast states.  Recent surveys, however, have shown migration of outbreaks further north into the Midwest.  Unlike Lyme disease, the bacteria reside in white blood cells of its host.  It can also affect red blood cell clotting causing signs such as bloody nose or bruising on the abdomen and/or gums.  Other signs caused by Ehrlichiosis are discharge from eyes or nose, anorexia, and weight loss.  In severe causes it can affect the eyes and nervous system which can lead to permanent defects.  Diagnosing Ehrlichiosis is also a quick and simple test that takes a small amount of blood and can be completed at the time of your appointment.



RMSF is not as prevalent as Lyme disease or Ehrliciosis in Illinois but has had high cases counts in surrounding states such as Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.  It is spread to dogs and humans by the American dog tick.  The bacteria that enter through the tick’s bite go to the blood system and attach the cells lining small arteries and veins.  Leakage from the veins and arteries eventually takes place which leads to fluid accumulation under the skin or excessive bleeding (seen as swelling of limbs and bruising).  The brain, kidneys, skin, and heart are the organs most affected and common signs include fever, lethargy, swelling (legs, neck, lips, ears, scrotum), coughing or trouble breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, bruising on abdomen or gums, or nose bleeds.



Babesiosis is a tick borne disease that affects both dogs and cats and is transmitted by the brown dog tick.  Most cases are seen in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States.  The bacteria primarily infect red blood cells and causes destruction of the entire cell.  Eventually this leads to anemia and the body does not have enough blood to properly carry oxygen and nutrients.  Signs that may be shown in infected animals are lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, distended abdomen, swelling, discharge from eyes, and trouble breathing.  Diagnosis of this tick borne disease is more difficult as the bacteria must be viewed on a blood smear and most tests are not as accurate as they are for Lyme disease or Ehrlichiosis. 



If detected early most tick borne diseases have good prognosis with proper treatment.  If severe, an infection can have permanent effects on vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, and brain or require extensive hospitalization.  Prevention is aimed at preventing/removing the tick from the dog or cat.  Since most infections require a tick to be attached anywhere from five to twenty hours, several of the tick preventative products are designed to kill ticks before they can spread disease.



Even though the tick population has been prevalent in 2012, there are preventative measures that can be taken to protect both you and your pet from potential tick borne diseases.  First and foremost, every pet with possible tick exposure should have a topical preventative put on once monthly.  Products such as Parastar Plus, Advantix, and Frontline are easily applied and provide 30 days of tick and flea protection.  Routine tick checks to scan patients for attached ticks is a secondary protection method we recommend in the summer months.  Avoid grassy or wooded areas if at all possible to limit the tick exposure to you and your pet.  If you notice your pet having signs such as lethargy, anorexia, or shifting leg lameness please contact a veterinarian immediately as they indicate the presence of a tick borne disease.