Hawaii's Abundant Ticks Transmit Ehrlichia and Babesia

Hawaii's Abundant Ticks Can Transmit Ehrlichia and Babesia.

As much respect as I try to have respect for all life, I have yet to discover one redeeming quality about a tick. So far as ectoparasites go, ticks are repulsive creatures, savage feeders, and bearers of bad diseases including those caused by Ehrlichia and Babesia.

Ehrlichia and Babesia are disease-causing organisms transmitted by ticks and Hawaii ticks are known sources of infection. Dogs (and other animals) become infected when infectious ticks bite through skin to get to a blood meal and leave behind contaminated saliva. Depending on the number of organisms present in the tick's saliva and the state of the victim's immune system, all kinds of symptoms can develop. Disease can be mild or severe, acute or chronic.

Ehrlichia infections can cause fever, swollen and painful joints, bleeding, anemia, immunosuppression, and kidney failure. Undetected and untreated infections can be life-threatening. Treatment often involves extended courses of antibiotics.

Babesia is a protozoal parasite, similar to malaria. Babesia invades the body's red blood cells and can cause high fever, bleeding, and anemia. Sometimes liver and kidney failure also occur. Babesia infections can be difficult to treat. Side effects and complications are possible with some of the drugs. Once infected, getting rid of every last Babesia organism in the body can be difficult. Relapses are possible even with treatment.

Ticks are thriving in Hawaii's lovely year-round tropical climate. Hence, both these diseases are constant and ongoing threats to our dogs. Tick control is the key to preventing exposure to Ehrlichia and Babesia. There are many products available ranging from shampoos, sprays, collars, and dips to monthly spot-on products. Please follow label instructions and precautions.

My own personal experience with these products is that they help, but do not completely prevent ticks from attaching to and biting dogs. Minced garlic added to food at a dose of 1 clove per 25 pounds of body weight per day has improved tick control amongst my own canine companions. There is evidence that garlic in high doses (much higher than the suggested dose above) can cause anemia in animals, so stick to the recommended dose. I have not found garlic to be useful in preventing fleas. I do not recommend garlic for cats.

As with any reference, these pages are not a substitute for veterinary care. Veterinary practice is an eyes, ears, nose, and hands-on profession which cannot be accomplished over the Internet.


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Last revised: May 17, 2005
Text and images © 2005 by Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya