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Why tick prevention medication and regular vetting of dogs is important

We live in San Francisco and had a dog who wasn't interested in going for hikes on local trails or up Mt. Tam. She loved a good neighborhood walk, and as a youngster, an afternoon at the beach or in the park. While we weren't terribly worried about her picking up ticks, we watched over her closely for fleas. We used a topical flea and tick medication every month that could penetrate her thick Husky-Shepherd neck fur. We also gave her monthly heart worm tablets.

Though we didn't like the idea of applying chemicals on our dog, we knew prevention was important and better than the alternative. In her final years, when she'd stopped going further than around the block, we stopped the topical flea and tick medication, and separate heart worm pill. We switched her to a tablet that offered flea control, heart worm protection and warded off intestinal parasites.

Unfortunately every year 1 in 79 dogs test positive for tick borne illnesses such Lyme Disease. Umbecca, a reader of the blog and our Facebook page shared this important story about a Catahoula dog named Ruger. I hope you'll read it and that it helps you understand better why our pets need to be protected from all nature of parasites.

Why tick prevention medication and regular vetting of dogs is important

Ruger was pulled by Janeen's Catahoula Rescue from the SPCA in Fresno, where he was turned in as a stray, with a plan to go directly to Oregon.  His vet check revealed that he has tick borne illnesses Lyme Disease and Anaplasmosis. He is currently in temporary foster care in California until he is well enough to travel. If you are interested in helping fund his medical or travel expenses, following his progress, or adopting him after he is well, scroll to the bottom for more information.

This is Ruger's story:


"The SPCA notified Janeen of Janeen's Catahoula Rescue that they had a catahoula mix in the shelter for 3 weeks and he was due to be put down in a couple days. We shared his face all over Facebook begging anyone to take him in. A woman in Oregon volunteered to foster him but that presented the problem of getting him from point A to point B. I couldn't let this dog die just for lack of a ride so I volunteered to drive from Fremont to Fresno to 'spring him from the clink' the Saturday before his Monday execution date.

Our plan was to pick him, take him to the vet for a health check and get the certificate required for crossing state lines, then put him on a commercial transport bound for Oregon the following Saturday. Unfortunately, Ruger failed his health test. His temperature was 104 and, while the vet allowed a dog's anxiety can cause an increase in temperature, she wasn't comfortable releasing him without a blood test. The first lab report indicated that there was in fact something abnormal with his blood. A canine vector test was then ordered to determine if the many ticks I'd pulled off him had been the cause of the giant platelets.

I can't tell you my relief, I actually cried, when the vet called to tell me the diagnosis. I had feared the worst, afraid this boy had something incurable, some rare blood disorder, something that might shorten his life - but no, it was "only" Lyme Disease! When he first arrived he had a slight cough that we had assumed was caused by the bordetella vaccine, but it was actually a symptom of Anaplasmosis, another disease spread by ticks. But now I had answers as to why this young dog was so stiff every morning and why, after playing for only a short time, he'd have to stop and rest.

Ruger has been the best patient, an absolute dream of a dog! For the first week the doctor ordered a strict diet of boiled chicken, rice and yogurt - and I was covered in kisses after every meal. He is on a 28 day cycle of antibiotics, every 24 hours I have to convince him to take three pills at one time. I do so by saying "Hey Ruger, it's pill time!" He sits at my feet, wagging his tail, anxiously waiting for me to start with the pills. Of course, there is a chance the chicken chaser helps encourage his cooperation. [wink wink] He loves to play fetch, his favorite is a football sized squeaky toy that he can just barely get his mouth around. If he looks like he's had a rough day I ask him to dance and we skip around the room, both of us barking off key.

He enjoys playing with my female, but my male doesn't like other dogs so I have to keep the two of them apart. And, because my male dog is such a weenie about it, Ruger has to sleep in the garage by himself. I did offer him a crate in the house, but he prefers the extra space so we compromised; I lay on his bed and cuddle with him for 30 minutes every night before I go to bed, and he sleeps in the garage quietly without howling for me to come back. It took us a couple of days of negotiations, but I'm sure my neighbors are happy that we found an agreement suitable to all those within ear shot.

When his medication is complete I will take him back to the vet for a follow up and finally, hopefully, get the health certificate required to transport him to the foster in Oregon. He will be put up for adoption, but I don't know at what point that will be made public- we've just started the second week of antibiotics, so he'll be with me a little longer yet."

If anyone is interested in helping with Ruger's expenses or adopting him, more information can be found on Janeen's facebook page

Umbecca also has posts about Ruger on her Facebook page and Instagram as she cares for him.

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