What Hides Beneath

Special Contribution By Jessica Garrett of Garrett Veterinary Services

As the temperatures cool and the year winds down, our midwestern world is plunged into the beautiful colors of autumn. With each brisk fall breeze, the trees shed their warmly colored leaves to blanket the ground below.  There is a simple joy for everyone – children, animals, and grown-ups, too – in playing in these leaves. Jumping into piles carefully raked together, going out of our way to step on those that look the crunchiest, even laying on that fresh fall blanket to take social media-worthy pictures!

As much fun and joy is found in the leaves, there may be something frightening lurking beneath! At this time of year, many insects and arachnids bed down under the fallen leaves, including ticks of many kinds. They breed and lay eggs, waiting for a host to wander by. Unfortunately, this time of year, many people also stop giving their pets parasite preventatives. There is a false concept that you only need to prevent parasites when the weather is warm, which leads to us seeing an increase in flea and tick infestations at the vet clinic.

Most people know that ticks bite and feed on the blood of their hosts, but some don’t realize just how serious tick bites can be. Ticks can spread many diseases to humans and animals alike. Lyme disease is becoming more and more prevalent in this area every year, and it can lead to a myriad of problems including joint pain, kidney damage, neurological issues, fever, and more.  Anaplasmosis can cause anemia, clotting disorders, fever, joint pain, and loss of appetite. Ehrlichiosis can cause fever, lethargy, clotting disorders, and neurological issues. These three can all be detected through easy, in-clinic testing at Garrett Veterinary Services or most other trusted family vets, and annual screening is recommended in order to catch these diseases BEFORE they start hurting your pets. We’ve also started testing for these diseases in horses, and we have seen cases of both Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis in horses in this area. We also have started seeing a lot of Cytauxzoon felis, a blood borne parasite spread to cats by tick bites. This disease can become fatal quickly if not detected and treated.

This information can be scary and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to ruin your enjoyment of the beautiful autumn season! You can still play in the leaves and have fun with your family and pets, but make sure you are aware of what may be hiding under those leaves. Talk to your vet about how to best protect your pets all year long, and, of course, make sure to protect your family with repellents, appropriate clothing, and “tick checks” at the end of your fun fall day!

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