Photo 1. Pit Boss
Everyone dislikes parasites. They are unpleasant, unwelcome, they suck our blood and they spread disease. What many people don’t know is that those annoying pests, ticks, spread a deadly disease to our furry best friends, known as tick fever.
There are several diseases, commonly called ‘tick fever’, spread by ticks, but the two most common in Belize are Canine Erlichiosis and Canine Anaplasmosis. Big words for serious diseases that come from something as tiny as at tick.
Pit Boss was the name given to a very sad and sick young pit bull, who like many of his breed had been bought by irresponsible owners who cared little for him. When a local businesswoman found Pit Boss, he was a walking skeleton – every bone showing through his skin, his dark eyes bulging from his head, pleading for help. When he was taken to SAGA his life hung by a fragile thread. He had no energy left and was bleeding heavily from the nose. The SAGA staff team worked tirelessly for three weeks, giving him top notch veterinary care, special medication and plenty of love.
Sadly, that thread finally snapped and Pit Boss’s life came to a tragic end. Not only did he have two types of tick fever, but he also had heartworms – another disease spread by parasites (mosquitoes) that is easily preventable. Pit Boss’s owners had neglected him for so long that his kidneys were too badly affected and he was never able to recover the strength he needed to survive. Another heartbreak for SAGA - but of course, for every sad ending, there are more happy endings.
Rex was found abandoned, wandering the streets of San Pedro and picked up by the SAGA animal welfare team. These are dedicated volunteers who collect stray, abandoned, neglected and abused dogs for SAGA Humane Society to make sure that they get a second chance. Rex also had tick fever and heartworm, but the good news is that SAGA got him before he lost his fight with the diseases.
Rex wasn’t a big strong looking dog – in fact he was the total opposite, but looks can be deceiving. After 6 weeks of intensive treatment he was improving, beating the sickness a day at a time. A lovely family came into SAGA and fell in love with Rex’s sweet personality and gentle nature. They were more than happy to agree to continue with his treatment and while it will still be a few more months before he is fit and healthy, there is no better place for him to recover than in the care of a permanent and loving home with people who love him dearly.
Tick fever can be treated easily and inexpensively if it is caught early, but the symptoms can be confusing. They can include a lack of appetite, fever, nosebleeds, runny eyes and nose, weight loss, depression, eye problems, bleeding through the skin and bruising, vomiting, diarrhea, joint pain and lameness, stiffness of the neck and seizures. Any of these symptoms can be a sign that your dog has tick fever. Some dogs have tick fever and show no symptoms at all and then can suddenly become very sick. The only way to know for sure if your pet has tick fever is with a special test.
Dogs cannot catch tick fever from other dogs and people cannot catch tick fever from dogs either. But – people can catch the human type of tick fever from ticks. So, remember that ticks are not only ‘ick’ but they are dangerous too.
Ticks live in long grass so keep your grass cut and keep your pets away from areas with long grass. Use good quality tick prevention treatments such as Preventic collars, Frontline and Promeris –available from SAGA or Pampered Paws. Check your pets every day for ticks and parasites. If you find that your dog has even one tick it is better to be safe than sorry. Talk to the SAGA vet. Don’t let your best friend end up like Pit Boss.
If you’d like to find out more about protecting your pet from tick fever or if you are worried that your pet is showing any of the symptoms of tick fever, even if you haven’t seen a tick, please contact SAGA on 226 3266 – before it’s too late!
The SAGA Humane Society:
Coconut Drive, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Tel: +501 226 3266
Photo 2. Rex and his new owners