Whether we belief it or not, things tend to come to the clinic in a bunch. One of the things we see more often recently is tick fever.
Tick fever is a disease that causes anaemia (low in red blood cells) and fever in dogs. As the name tells you, tick fever got to do with ticks. This condition is transmitted via ticks, so dogs that are carrier of the disease got beat by ticks and is transmitted when the ticks beat another dog. Tick fever can have a very long incubation period, or the dog can become a carrier without showing any clinical signs. However, if a dog becomes clinical, it will usually show initial signs of lethargy and inappetence, this might or might not be obvious to owners. Sometimes, an owner might think the dog is tired or has gone off food because of palatability. As the condition progresses and worsens, the owner might notice that the gum has become more pale, and the dog more inactive, and might sometimes pant, and have anorexia.
After consulting with a vet, most likely the dog will need to be stabilized in the hospital. Blood is needed to confirm anaemia, and sometimes will have thrombocytopenia (lowered platelet), most vets will also recommend a PCR test to confirm tick fever, and differentiate which type of tick fever.
Meanwhile, depending on how anaemic the dog is, blood transfusion may be needed. Usually when the haematocrit or packed cell volume is lower than 15, then transfusion is indicated. The important thing to know is that transfusion is part of the stabilization plan, but not a cure, it is purely to let us to have more time for the treatment to work. Donor blood can be collected from other dogs that match in blood typing and cross matching, or there are blood products that are available commercially and store in various clinics. Whenever transfusing any products from another animal, there is a small risk for allergic reaction, and hence vet and team will need to monitor the vital signs throughout the transfusion to ensure the process is smooth and without any event.
After the PCR result is back, then appropriate treatment will begin. With most cases of tick fever, it usually improves and stabilizes within 2 to 3 days, however, there are cases that take around 5 days to a week, and some rarer cases that may have complications may take a longer hospitalization time.
Tick fever is a life threatening condition and treatment is expensive and not 100% guarantee. And hence, we always recommend tick prevention in the form of topical products or tick collar.
If your dog goes to parks and gardens often, this is one of the things you MUST bear in mind, if you think your pet has problem, the quickest way is to consult with a vet.
photos by Dr. Keith Yiu
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