Vector borne diseases are viral or bacterial diseases that are transmitted using another animal (the vector). In the New York area, ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes are common vectors that affect pets as well as people.
Four common species of ticks, the Deer Tick, the American Dog Tick, the Brown Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick, reside in our area and transmit many types of bacterial disease. Ticks are more prevalent and more likely to spread disease in the late spring and summer. Adult ticks can be easy to find and remove. However, it is very important to remember that the nymph stage of ticks, when they are barely bigger than the tip of a ball point pen, transmits many of these diseases. The CDC has an excellent informational page explaining the life cycle of disease-spreading ticks in the United States.
Other bacterial diseases transmitted by ticks are Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These diseases may cause nebulous signs of inappetence, fever, and gastrointestinal distress. They may also lead to more significant interference with certain blood cell types and can be life threatening.
In a crowded environment like New York City, flea infestations can be easy to contract and difficult to contain or eliminate without flea prevention. Fleas are an itchy nuisance on their own, and many dogs and cats suffer from flea allergies and flea-related dermatitis. However, it is also possible for fleas to cause anemia (a decrease in healthy red blood cells that prevents the body’s tissues and organs from receiving sufficient oxygen), especially in younger animals, and to transmit tapeworms and bacterial or viral infections, some of which can be contracted in humans.
For dogs and cats, the most important mosquito borne concern is heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is caused by a blood parasite called Dirofilaria immitus. A mosquito bites an infected animal and picks up the parasite. The parasite matures within the mosquito and can then be transmitted to another pet. Once inside the bloodstream of a dog, the parasite can grow and multiply until it clogs the heart valves - causing coughing, exercise intolerance and possible death. For cats, this parasite is more likely to cause inflammation and disruption in the lungs causing coughing and lethargy.
While treatment for tick borne and, in most cases, heartworm disease is available, prevention is more affordable and better ensures the health of your pet. Park East Animal Hospital offers a comprehensive selection of flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives in a variety of presentations. Whether oral, topical, or wearable prevention best suits your lifestyle, our doctors can recommend a product to keep your pet free of vector borne disease all year round. Call our office at 212-832-8417 to speak with a doctor if you have concerns about possible exposure to these disease vectors.