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How to Manage Tick Fever If You Have a Pack of Dogs

In my last post about Tick Fever I said I learned tons more on tick fever management from the Vet and friends who also have packs. But before I get to the management, I’d like to talk about why management is important.

Tick Fever is spread by ticks when they bite on prey. The bacterial organism is passed into the host through it’s saliva. However not all ticks carry the organism – Ehrlichia canis.

A tick ingests the organism when it feeds on an infected host. Once the tick is a carrier it will infect and transmit the disease to all dogs it feeds on after. And it doesn’t end here, the bacterium is also passed on to offspring when the carrier tick lays eggs.

This is not a small matter when you realise that ticks can lay up to 3,000 eggs at one time. That’s an army carrying tick fever!

Management of tick fever isn’t easy but it isn’t impossible either. Being diligent, careful and vigilant constantly, will take you a long way in keeping your pack safe. Here’s some of the things I was told to do and I did.

No Hunger:
The sick dog should eat as much as he/she wants as it needs all the nourishment it can get to fight and heal, however make sure to spread the meals.
Cuckoo seemed to be in very early stages of Ehrlichiosis as her appetite hadn’t dropped at all. She ate her scheduled meal and then asked for more. With her medication and healing cycle she needed as much energy as she could generate so I fed her as much as she wanted. But I spread the meals out so she didn’t eat too much at any point in time and throw up. She ate three meals and showed a preference for chicken rather than beef but she was eating her beef quantities too. The chicken I guess was easier for her to digest.
Along with this I was giving her a mug of chicken soup a couple of times through the day too. The soup would give her energy and also hydrate her.

Stay Paranoid:
Keeping all the dogs tick free should be on top of your priority list. Keeping the infected dog tick free above all else.
I checked and cleaned Cuckoo almost thrice a day those days. I watched her like a hawk on walks, making sure to avoid bushes and grass where ticks are most likely to be, and I checked her during or immediately after every morning walk. A tick that bites her and lays eggs would unleash an army of infected ticks in my house.

Short, Clean Walks:
If your dog is up to walking, walk your dog but keep the walk short so as to not tire him/she.
For a while all the dogs were on short walks and on as short a leash as I could manage. I tried and kept them away from bushes as much as possible. Both of these were meant to reduce the chances of bringing in ticks. After all walks were complete I also settled down for a session of checking and grooming all dogs before feed time.
Cuckoo loves her walks so I couldn’t deny her but a short walk made sure that she didn’t get too tired or fatigued.

Cleaning OCD:
Keep your house like a maniac and do it again every day!
I was on a cleaning mania those two weeks. Every piece of bedding got brushed down everyday, every corner got swept and mopped. I usually vacuum once a week but then I increased it’s frequency and did it every alternate day. I sprayed all corners and edges in the house with neem oil and the mop water had large quantities of salt and vinegar everyday. The salt and vinegar work well as dehydrating agents and should kill ticks that fall off as ticks need to stay hydrated to stay alive. Between the neem oil and salt I hoped to avoid any laying of eggs.
The garden was sprayed down with neem oil too. Not only did I spray the trees and plants but also the grass!

Temperature:
Check temperatures everyday!
Normal temperature for dogs is 102F and depending on time of day and activity it could go up to 103 but anything above that is not normal and is the first indicator of tick fever.
I checked the temperatures of all dogs everyday. It is preferred to check first thing in the morning as resting temperature is the best indicator but with William and Max it was difficult in the morning as they were restless for their walks. So everyone else got checked in the morning and they got theirs checked about noon when lethargy set in. :)

Medication:
Don’t miss giving medication on time and make sure you are using some external treatment to deter ticks.
Cuckoo was on doxycycline and I made sure to give her her dose everyday without fail.
Apart from this all dogs had Protektor (tick and flea drops) Spot-on treatment put on as a first line of defense. I was hoping it would work as a deterrent for ticks. But I would still check like crazy, everyday and sometimes multiple times a day. It was almost like every petting session was a tick search session.
Usually Che and I are very particular about the dogs baths and renewal of their tick and flea medication. This time with all the shifting I had slipped up and the baths and treatment renewals got delayed. We did get it all done but just before Cuckoo was diagnosed and that was already too late!

If you’d like to know more about ticks, the Tick article on Wikipedia is a great. You can also read the How Ticks Work article on How Stuff Works. For home remedies to keep ticks away here is a list I put together some time back – Home Remedies for Ticks on Dogs

Over all it had been two weeks with shit loads of stuff to do every day but after a couple of days it became routine and I started to even have fun doing it all. 😀

However things changed drastically after Cuckoo’s second blood test. We weren’t fighting tick fever any more but rather auto-immune disease. But that’s a post for another day…

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