Veterinarian, Dr. Valentino Grant.
It’s time for some more serious medical information. I turned to, as usual, my good friend and my dog’s veterinarian Dr. Val Grant for some answers. Last article written on a question and answer basis was very well received, so I have decided to continue in the same direction this time. Below you will find Dr. Grant’s answers to some of the more common question about “Tick borne diseases”. When my dog was first diagnosed with one of these diseases, I had been totally unaware that ticks were more than just pesky revolting little blood-filled monsters!
1. What are the tick borne diseases?
There are quite a few tick borne diseases. They include Ehrlichiosis ( the most common in the Bahamas ), Babesiosis, Bartonellosis, Lyme's Disease and Anaplasmosis.
2. How long have we known about these diseases?
We have known about these diseases for quite some time. One of these diseases - Ehrlichiosis, was first recognized in Algeria in 1935 and was first reported in the United States in 1963. The disease gained prominence due to the devastating losses of military working dogs stationed in Vietnam. (during the war ). The disease was called Tropical Canine Pancytopenia at that time.
3. Do they infect only dogs or other small animals as well?
They infect quite a few animals. Not only dogs but cats, deer and small ruminants like Sheep and Goats. Even humans can contract some of these diseases like Bartonellosis, Lyme's Disease and Ehlichiosis from the bite of an infected tick.
It is important to note that there are no reported cases of Lyme's Disease in the Bahamas.
4. Can your pet have more than one of these diseases at the same time?
Yes. There can be a number of co-infections with different combinations of the various organisms
5. What are the different symptoms of some of these diseases in dogs?
Some of the symptoms include lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, lameness, painful and stiff joints, difficulty breathing, anemia ( pale gums ) and nosebleed.
6. What can you do if your pet has any of the above symptoms and can they be treated ?
You should go to your Vet immediately and let him/her perform blood tests.
There are quite inexpensive screening tests on the market for Canine Ehrlichiosis that take only 10-15mins . Sometimes additional blood tests have to be done based on the severity of the presenting symptoms.A treatment protocol will then be formulated by your Veterinarian.
In the case of Canine Ehrlichiosis most Vets in the Bahamas treat the disease with either Doxycycline or Tetracycline antibiotics and some practices also give 2 injections of a drug called imizol ( one injection followed up with a booster 2 weeks later )
7. Can these diseases be prevented?
The key to preventing or reducing infection of these diseases is to try to minimize tick exposure. You should have your premises sprayed if there is a tick problem.
Also there are products on the market like Frontline, Revolution and Advantix which aid in killing the ticks once they are on the dog’s body.
8.Does Heartgard or any other heartworm medication help protect the pet from any of these diseases
Heartgard does not, but there are other heartworm preventatives like Revolution which provide protection not only from heartworms but also from Ticks.
9. Are these diseases hard to get rid of?
So far only Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and Bartonellosis have been diagnosed and treated in the Bahamas. No local cases of Lyme's Disease or Anaplasmosis have been reported
Once diagnosed these diseases can become chronic especially when the animals keep getting bitten by infected ticks.The diseases can be quite frustrating to get rid of because of constant re-infection by ticks. In some cases the dogs have to be monitored ever so often by blood tests which check their red blood cell and platelet counts.
In some cases dogs are placed on doxycycline or tetracycline every 3 months when their owners have tried to no avail to rid them of ticks.
The Bahamas is considered to be in an Ehrlichia endemic region. The incidences of Canine Ehrlichiosis are increasing as more Veterinary Practices screen dogs during routine Annual Physicals.
Remember : You should take your pet to the Vet for testing if you discover a tick anywhere on its body.
Even if you have NEVER found a tick on your dog’s body, it is wise to still have your dog tested. Ticks bite and feed but don't remain on the dogs body for their entire life cycle!!
Early detection and intervention are keys to decreasing the debilitating effects of these diseases which are sometimes fatal.
Dr. Valentino Grant is presently practicing at the Palmdale Veterinary Clinic, in Nassau, New Providence.
I would like to thank Dr. Grant for always being so willing to help me in providing useful and important health information for my readers.
About the author:
Kim Aranha grew up in the Berry Islands with her first dog, a beloved potcake named “Friendly” (who was anything but!). First educated at home, and then in boarding school in Switzerland, Kim moved to Rome, Italy in 1974 to pursue a career in the dramatic arts and ended up working as an interpreter. She moved back to The Bahamas in 1980, and now lives in Nassau with her husband Paul, and their two teenaged sons. Kim has 4 dogs, 5 fish (1 Beta, 4 Goldfish), 10 turtles (6 babies, 4 adolescents), 1 Asian box turtle and 4 Budgerigars. Her idea of relaxing is being home to take care of all her pets. Kim is a member of the board of the Bahamas Humane Society. Kim can be contacted at