Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 1, 2013

Plateau Gardening: Protect your four-legged friends from tick, mosquito bites

By C. Rae Hozer
Chronicle contributor

— Some folks will read the headline of this article with skepticism. If your childhood ended prior to 1999, when the first United States case of West Nile Virus was identified in New York, it may be hard to believe something as much a part of summertime when you were a kid as a mosquito or tick bite, is now a serious threat. Believe it.

Three of my buddies have had near-death experiences after tick bites. One friend can no longer work as a nurse after an illness her doctors believe started with a mosquito bite.

A tick I found on the dog after one of our walks and the butterfly wildflower meadow along one side of our property (where tall, thick, lush vegetation is just the kind of insect-friendly environment ticks and mosquitoes like) were the impetus for this series of articles (see related photos). Hopefully this information will help you and your family to understand the potential for infection, recognize habitat where infected ticks or mosquitoes may be found and prompt your use of products and/or methods for preventing bites. Protect yourself and those you love, whether they have two legs or four.

Last week, there was a note on the calendar reminding me to give our dog, Cocoa the chocolate lab, her treatment to prevent heart worm as well as another to kill ticks and fleas. Talk with your veterinarian about taking preventive action and about available tests to detect any current infection your pets or livestock could have. That chat could be a pet life saver.

The New York Animal Medical Center web page at http://amcny.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/mosquito-borne-illness-and-pets/ cites heartworm as the most serious mosquito-borne disease for cats and dogs. Mosquito bites can transmit microscopic worms to a pet’s bloodstream. These parasitic worms are called heartworms because they live and grow in canine or feline hearts and pulmonary arteries. Eventually the worm can clog the heart causing sudden death.

Mosquitoes are also vectors for the deadly disease West Nile Virus (WNV). Read the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) Veterinarian Newsletter titled "Protecting Pets from Mosquito-Borne Diseases" (online at http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/FDAVeterinarianNewsletter/ucm110414.htm).

West Nile Virus can be contracted from a mosquito bite. WNV has a similar course of infection in horses, dogs and people. It goes to the brain causing inflammation and central nervous system interference. Creating a mosquito-free environment around your home can be difficult with all the rainfall we have had, but it is the most important form of protection against mosquito-borne illnesses for your neighborhood, your family and your pets.

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation's web report, "Canine Tick-Borne Diseases," found at the browser address http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/canine-tick-borne-disease.html suggests Canine Ehrlichiosis  (found worldwide) is the most common and one of the most dangerous tick-borne organisms that infect dogs.

Lime disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (as well as four other maladies) are also described in that document. Early detection and treatment is said to be the surest way to a cure. The threat to dogs from tick-transmitted illnesses has risen sharply (30 percent) between the years 2006 and 2010. Discuss the possibility of including an annual screening test for this type of disease as part of your dog’s annual veterinary check-up.

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Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region.  Contact UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (484-6743) for answers to horticulture questions, free publications and how to become a Master Gardener. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae, MGardenerRae@frontiernet.net.