Traveling with dogs and cats: these diseases are threatened by ticks

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Traveling with dogs and cats.  Photo: vetproduction

If you are traveling with a dog or cat, you should think about adequate protection against ticks. Photo: vetproduction

A contribution from ESCCAP eV

Bikini, slippers, passport: didn’t forget anything? If a trip is planned, it often means stress. In the hustle and bustle, it is easy to forget that dogs and cats need tick protection when they travel with you. Read here which diseases threaten from ticks and how you can protect your pet from them.

Most people who own dogs or cats have had contact with ticks at some point. Many also know that the blood-sucking parasites can transmit diseases. What is often less well known, however, is that Risk of diseases from ticks is particularly high in certain holiday regions. Effective protection against ticks for dogs and cats before departure is therefore essential. But which diseases play a role for dogs and cats? What are the symptoms and in which countries is the risk particularly high?

Did you know, …
… that ticks can also be active in winter? They only go into hibernation at temperatures below 6-7 °C. Protection against ticks is therefore not only important in spring and summer, but also in mild winters.

Whether near or far: Lyme disease occurs throughout Europe

It is one of the diseases most pet owners have heard of: Lyme disease. Many people know that people can contract Lyme disease. However, not everyone is aware that the nasty symptoms, such as constant joint inflammation, can also affect their dog. The main carrier of Borrelia is a tick species called “Common woodblock“ (Ixodes ricinus). These ticks are very common and distributed across Europe from north to south and east to west.

Infected ticks carry the Borrelia in their digestive tract. If they attack humans or animals, they transmit the pathogens towards the end of the act of sucking, after 16 to 24 hours at the earliest tick saliva in the blood of their victim. It can then take four weeks or even much longer before the first symptoms of Lyme disease appear.

The good news: Will the tick removed immediately and properly, transmission of Borrelia is unlikely. The bad news: Those affected usually do not know exactly when the tick has attached itself – therefore the risk of transmission cannot be assessed.

Weakness, fever, bleeding: Ehrlichiosis caused by ticks

Ehrlichiosis in dogs is caused by bacteria transmitted by the brown dog tick. The disease occurs – like the brown dog tick – predominantly in the Mediterranean before. There can be about three weeks between the tick bite and the first symptoms of the disease – a tick infestation on vacation was so long ago that the dog owner often does not even think that the disease is a “souvenir”.

Ehrlichiosis symptoms in dogs include fever, weakness and bleeding. The lymph nodes are usually swollen and the spleen is enlarged. It is also possible that the disease chronic runs. There are many other possible symptoms of Ehrlichiosis, which vary from case to case. It is therefore sometimes difficult for the veterinarian to diagnose Ehrlichiosis in a dog.

Babesiosis (“canine malaria”): Not only in the Mediterranean region

The causative agents of so-called dog malaria are microscopically small parasites, so-called babesia, which are found in the intestines of certain ticks. The colored tick and the brown dog tick can transmit babesiosis to dogs. Originally, both tick species are mainly in Mediterranean countries native – and where the ticks live, the risk of babesiosis is also highest.

Babesiosis is particularly common south of central france before. But beware: the ticks have now left their countries of origin and have now also arrived in Germany – also because they are brought in from holiday countries.

Babesia damage red blood cells of dogs. Symptoms of canine babesiosis include anemia, jaundice and bloody urine. Babesiosis is a serious condition and without timely treatment it is often fatal.

Did you know, …
… that infected ticks are particularly resistant to heat and cold? Researchers came to this conclusion in a study. The scientists therefore even suspect that the risk of communicable diseases is higher in warm, dry or cold weather conditions.

Ticks transmit anaplasmosis in dogs

Above all, the wood tick can transmit the pathogens of anaplasmosis. These are special bacteria that live in the white blood cells infected dogs are located. Dogs can contract anaplasmosis anywhere in Europe.

The symptoms of anaplasmosis, such as fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting or lameness, also occur in many other diseases. Hence the anaplasmosis not always easy to determine. Infected ticks can also infect cats, but this is very rare.

TBE: A danger especially for humans

In addition to bacteria and unicellular parasites, ticks can also transmit viruses. The common woodbuck is known as a carrier of tick-borne encephalitis, or TBE for short. The viruses cause one in humans Inflammation of the brain and meninges.

It is theoretically also possible for dogs to contract TBE, but this happens extremely rarely. However, for people, especially children or the elderly, the disease can dangerous be. If you own an animal, it is in your own interest to ensure that dogs and cats are protected against ticks.

Protection against ticks – not only when travelling!

Antiparasitic drugs against ticks can protect dogs and cats from communicable diseases. when a tick repellent required and how often you should use it on your pet depends on the risk of tick infestation. In the case of indoor cats that do not travel and have no contact with other pets, it is sufficient if you keep checking the fur for parasites.

For dogs and cats that go outside regularly, a Protection against ticks recommended – also in this country. In regions where tick-borne diseases are present, at-risk dogs and cats should be continuously protected from ticks.

Further information

author: Pascale Huber, veterinarian
Date of last update:
July 2022
ESCCAP eV: (accessed: July 2022)

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