In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Dr. Brian Herrin from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine about tick borne illnesses.
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
Where to find Brian: College of Vet Med
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Kayla Fratt 00:09
Hello, and welcome to the K9Conservationists podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs. Join us every week to discuss detection, training, canine welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists, where we train dogs to detect data for land managers, researchers, agencies and NGOs.
Kayla Fratt 00:29
Today I am super duper excited to share an interview with Dr. Brian Herrin from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, all about tick borne diseases. As you all know, this is something that is near and dear to my heart after Barley had a very scary brush with some tick borne diseases and paralysis. We’ll talk about that more throughout the episode.
Kayla Fratt 00:49
So Dr. Brian Herrin graduated from Oklahoma State University for both his doctorate in veterinary medicine and his PhD. His current research focus is the control of ticks and fleas on companion animals. Some of his recent interests are on the early effects of isoxazoline on ticks and pathogen transmission, and the surveillance of ticks and tick borne diseases of horses. Although his research focus is on ticks, Dr. Heron enjoys working with all parasites of veterinarian portions through the diagnostic service at the KSVDL, and teaching outreach opportunities and he really was a delight to speak to.
Kayla Fratt 01:24
Before we get into the interview for y’all though, we’re going to dive into our science highlight. This week, we read an article titled “Predominant risk factors for tick-borne co-infections in hunting dogs from the USA,” which was written by 22 co-authors. The first author was Kurayi Mahachi, and it was published in 2020, in Parasites and Vectors. So to quote the abstract, “Both incidents and geographical range of tick-borne diseases has increased across the USA, similar to people dogs are hosts for Anaplasma, Babesia, Ehrlichia, and Borrelia burgdorferi.” So the author’s wanted to examine these risk factors. Basically, they performed a 12 month longitudinal study to look at what extent hunting dogs are exposed to tick four tick borne infections in the US, and then map those geographic distributions over the year. They looked at 214 dogs, and broke them into four different regions, the West, Midwest, South and East. And what they found was that geographical region was very closely related to the presence of suitable tick habitat and therefore which ticks the dogs would encounter. They evaluated how regional factors increase the risk of each tick borne disease, and that they found that region was a consistent predictor of exposure to tick borne diseases. So for example, seropositivity to Babesia, Burgdorferi and Anaplasma were highest in the East, while hunting dogs in the more southern parts of the Midwest were seropositive for Ehrlichia. And in addition, they found that regional patterns in quantitative PCR findings with all positive results coming from the southeast or Midwest regions. All tick-borne pathogens followed the expected temporal pattern with lower positivity rates found in January and February, increasing through August and then greatest seropositivity found in November. Those expected temporal trends for seroprevalence occurred at the species specific level as well. And they found that summer humidity and temperatures allowed for elevated emergence and activity of nymphs and adult ticks. Therefore, transmission follows the end of summer depending on the precise emergence and feeding behavior of each tick species. And there’s a lot of good maps and charts in this paper that I would really recommend people taking a look at, we’ll have a link in the show notes to look at kind of what infections were most likely to co-vary in what regions, what regions had the highest rates of specific things. I’m not going to get into all of that here because this is just a highlight. But I would recommend checking this paper out if you are running dogs in the US today. Finally, we’ll close with just one little scary thing from this paper. So they said surprisingly, but Babesia was found in hunting dogs across all regions of the USA. So in particular, the East, Midwest, and West regions had fairly similar percentages of seropositive dogs. So Babesia is not something that affects dogs most heavily in the east. We’re getting it just about everywhere except for the South. So without further ado, let’s get into our interview with Dr. Brian Herrin.
Heather Nootbaar 04:20
Are you ready to learn more about training in handling conservation detection dogs? I’m Heather one of the cofounders of K9Conservationists. Starting in January 2024, I’ll be leading a live session of our online conservation dog handler course with the help of Kayla and Rachel. The course includes 18 sections of material covering topics like dog selection, alert training, sensitivity and specificity, odor dynamics, field safety, finding work, and more. Students in the live session will also have weekly zoom meetings to discuss the learning, and go over homework. All students gain lifetime access to the course material and our online community of learners through WhatsApp and Facebook. For those looking to earn CEUs, the course is approved by CPDT, IAABC, and KPA. We can’t wait to join you on your journey – sign up for the waitlist today, linked in the show notes.
Kayla Fratt 05:13
Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, I am really excited to talk to you. As we were saying right before we started recording, and as most of our listeners know, this is something that’s a little personal for me after Barley, my, you know, main working dog, basically, in late May of this year started showing symptoms of paralysis, like a lack of proprioception, tripping, stumbling unable to stand up. And it was really scary. And within about four days, we managed to get him into the vet. And he came back positive for both are Erlichia and Anaplasmosis, showed improvement with about a week on antibiotics, but kind of kept improving and plateauing and improving and plateauing. And was probably at 90%, after a month of antibiotics, we did a second month of antibiotics. And now he seems to be at 100%. Still, he also of course did this after getting TPLO. So that surgery leg is still a little weak. But it seems like he’s pretty much as close to 100%, he’s he’s going to be now that he’s 10. But that has now made me a little bit nuts about tick stuff. I’ve always felt like the procedures that I had been doing to keep my dog safe from ticks worked. And that I had a good procedure. But you know, clearly the ticks of Central America prove me wrong. And now we’re here to talk to you about it.
Dr. Brian Herrin 06:34
Yeah, and I think that happens sometimes where, you know, there’s lots of things that we’re concerned about our pets, you know, and keeping them healthy. And there’s things that are on the forefront of our mind. And sometimes the ticks go kind of the back of our mind, and it’s not a big deal. And they’ll just like it’s thrust right upon you, you know, and some of these cases can get scary quickly. There are some very severe tick borne diseases that humans and dogs can get in something. When that happens. It’s like, oh, I need to redouble my efforts here in our strategy for controlling ticks or preventing them.
Kayla Fratt 07:12
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, it’s scary. And you know, right before I went to we did a project where we were helping out a team of scat dogs in Kenya. And right before we got there, they actually lost a dog as well to a tick borne disease. And that dog didn’t make it at all. So, you know, we’re lucky, we’ve got Barley with us, are lucky he doesn’t seem to have any lasting side effects. But you know, I’m from the Midwest, and we’ve, you know, it always could be worse. So why don’t we start out with, are ticks a problem worldwide? You know, I know they’re problem in Central America, obviously, but it seems like pretty much everywhere. Is that right?
Dr. Brian Herrin 07:52
Yes, definitely. So there are different ticks in different areas. So every continent kind of has their own jumble of a few different ones. And so if we’re talking about specific, you know, species that we think about here in the US, may not have them if you head to South America, Africa, Australia. And they may have their own diseases that are transmitted. Well, but really, ticks are a global phenomenon there. Like I said, most of them are kind of contained to, you know, continental east. That’s not no longer true anymore, though. So there’s one tick that is global, Rhipicephalus sanguineus. It’s a global tick. It’s found everywhere. There’s kind of different lineages, like cousins, but it’s still one tick, because it lives indoors. And so it’s been able to do as it – it’s primary residence is trying to get indoors. So if you ever see any pictures of like, kennel rescues or hoarding rescues where there’s lots of ticks in the ears of a dog or something like that looks really sad, that’s often Rhipicephalus sanguineus, because they can do, they can be massive numbers of ticks.
Dr. Brian Herrin 09:09
So we have a globally distributed tick. And then there’s a new tick that was just recently introduced to the United States. So Haemaphysalis longicornis, the Longhorned tick; its home range was Asia, they spilled into Australia and has now been introduced into North America, and it is a pretty generalist. It can feed on birds, mammals, lizards, kind of everything. So now that it’s here in the US, we would expect that it’s going to kind of spread and at least we’re now tracking that. So there’s different ticks in different areas. There’s a lot more people movement, so we’re always thinking about moving movement of those ticks and their diseases.
Kayla Fratt 09:50
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I didn’t realize that there were tick species that lived indoors. Yeah, in Central America, I actually got a lone star tick, which I know do occur in the US, but I’ve never really lived far enough south in the US for them to be a problem. And I was shocked, like, I grew up in northern Wisconsin where it’s just, you know, deer ticks and wood ticks, you know, and I feel like I grew up getting hundreds of bites most summers, you know, our elementary school had this horrifying strip of tape where you could put your ticks on after recess. And I don’t know why we did that, but we did it. But yeah, I was shocked, you know, just how much worse that Lone star bite was; it took weeks to heal over and was like really red and inflamed. I’m not allergic to meat so I guess that’s good, although I’m vegetarian. So it wouldn’t have been the worst thing if I was the one to take the fall on that lottery.
Dr. Brian Herrin 10:41
Yeah, the Lone star tick is super interesting. It does have a really painful attachment. So the mouthparts are a lot longer. And in fact, there’s another Gulf Coast tick here in the United States that I think there’s even more and really, and being out and being someone who gets exposed to ticks, doing tick collections. I can tell, specifically, when the Gulf Coast tick attaches, because it’s like a pain level that’s one up from the Lone star tick. But the Lone star tick is on on a pretty big movement north right now. And so, you know, maybe northern Wisconsin would still be spared right now. But it’s creeping into Wisconsin area as well. It’s doing a big expansion right now.
Kayla Fratt 11:27
Yeah, that whole climate change thing is probably not going to help our tick situation, I assume.
Dr. Brian Herrin 11:32
Yeah, so I think a lot of it is the warmer weathers, right, and so that they can complete some kind of lifecycle during the summers, the winter, you know, they can hide well enough that the cold is not going to kill them. And so they are moving north. Deer populations really helped support the Lone star tick too. So I mean, there’s just massive numbers of deer right now, as well. And so as they start to move, there’s not a big, we chat about them moving north, but there’s not a trailing edge; it’s not getting so hot in the south yet that that band is like moving up, and there’s less ticks in the south. They’re still in the south, and they’re moving more. And so there’s just more ticks everywhere. Yeah.
Kayla Fratt 12:17
How do you feel about ticks? And are you fond of them? Do you have a love/hate relationship with them.
Dr. Brian Herrin 12:24
I dislike having ticks on me, I dislike having ticks on my pets. So I’m very interested in kind of the unique relationship they’ve set up. So parasites in general are very cool, because they’ve adapted to living in or on some kind of hosts. And they’ve evolved with those hosts. And so they do really cool things. So it’s fascinating that the Lone star tick has sensors in the front legs that can detect carbon dioxide. And so they’re actually going towards a mammalian host. And so when we go to collect them, we can just put dry ice traps that kind of sublimate out that carbon dioxide and they’ll go to that trap. So I can catch, you know, 1000s of ticks in a day by putting out these, you know, carbon dioxide traps with just masking tape, because they’re really drawn out. So let the physiology of how they’re finding hosts. How they interact with the host is very interesting to me.
Kayla Fratt 13:27
Yeah, that is fascinating. And yeah, that sounds kind of fun. I think I could get into that. So okay, so we know ticks are now kind of on a worldwide scale. Are there any specific habitat types or type times of year or anything like that, that we can say in general generalities? Or maybe just North America? Most of our listeners are North American, but definitely not a a plurality?
Dr. Brian Herrin 13:54
Yeah, I would say the vast majority of ticks require some kind of forested area to survive. Well, at least the ones that we’re considering, have human and veterinary importance. And really, the reasons why is once they drop off of host, and they spend some time in the environment to molt to their next stage, they need to be out of the elements. And so they dropped down in below the leaf litter, kind of in that first topsoil layer. And they need to get out because they’re really sensitive to drying out and heat/cold extremes. And if they can get down into that first layer, then they’re protected.
Dr. Brian Herrin 14:37
And so when we’re thinking about, you know, specifically ticks, I’ll start with North America, those big deciduous forests, so oak trees type of things, that gives a good leaf layer for them to hide under and then choose to come out and quest to try to find a host. So we think of a lot of forested areas because it also supports the the wildlife hosts, we think about right where the deer are going to be where lots of the larval, so the youngest stages of ticks live on rodents. So you know, lots of forest rodents, things like that are necessary to support the population of ticks. And then kind of the ticks can also stay alive in that environment.
Kayla Fratt 15:24
Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. And I feel like I’ve heard, you know, my family, we got guinea fowl growing up because they really like eating ticks or, you know, I’ve heard Oh, increasing fox populations or possum populations might be able to help mitigate a little bit. Is there any – that probably wouldn’t help us at this line of work, because they’re not just working in our backyard. But you know, if you’ve got a resident fox, does that actually help? Or is that kind of a hopeful old wives’ tale at this point?
Dr. Brian Herrin 15:52
Yeah, I would say for possums and guineas, like they are eating ticks and guineas eating lots of other random insects around, they are not going to control ticks in a way that in which, you know, most people want them controlled, which is no ticks around. Or not having to use prevention when they go out and around. It’s really, really tricky. And even when you look at how they’ve attempted to do control of ticks on wildlife, we were thinking about the the deer tick or black legged tick, Ixodes, that we were talking about earlier. You know, the major drivers of the populations are rodents, and deer. And so they found, okay, we can make these little cotton homes for the rodents that are impregnated with insecticides or acaricides. And so then when they use the cotton to make their little nest, it kills the ticks, well, then they just saw those kind of shift over the ticks shift over to rodents that don’t do that. They don’t use cotton to make a nest or whatever.
Dr. Brian Herrin 17:00
And then the deer, they did corn bait stations. And that can be problematic for conservation things anyway, it’s just like baiting animals. And they use paint rollers to kind of swipe some acaricide on the deer when they went in for corn. But they they’ve shown that you have to have one kind of every, I don’t know, 10 square miles, and you have to keep them going forever and ever. And if you ever stopped them, the deer just get ticks again. And it’s really difficult for us to control the populations of ticks out in the environment, either just trying to control them off host or on host. So that’s why we had to just turn all of our focus on preventing the ticks from attaching and feeding on us or our pets. And that’s where the vast majority of control is on yourself or on your pet and not really things you can do in the environment.
Dr. Brian Herrin 17:51
Yeah, if you do live in an area that backs up to a forested area, you know, and you want to keep your kids safe on the playground and mowing the grass down in the area that you want to be safe kind of walking around on is really the best thing to do. Because they don’t, they’re really sensitive to sunlight and drying out. And so even if you can make a 10 foot kind of mowed area between the forested area and the playground or the deck or wherever you can spend time with your family that can help make a break to reduce your exposure in your yard. But other than that, once you head out into the wilderness, it’s kind of, you know, all bets off.
Kayla Fratt 18:31
That makes sense. Yeah. And I’m thinking of I think it was a Radiolab podcast called “Kill Them All” that was about mosquitoes and talking about, and gosh, I listened to this probably eight years ago. So I might be getting some of the details wrong. But yeah, you know, doing things like gene drives, and, you know, introducing, I think that it are in for sterile females in areas to try to control that. And it seems like unless we want to try to go that route, which has its own suite of concerns. We’re probably stuck with ticks.
Dr. Brian Herrin 19:05
Yeah. And it’s always tricky when we try to make human solutions to some of these things that we don’t know, the downstream when we think about what what animals are surviving off of feeding on mosquitoes, or ticks. And, and unfortunately, when we think of some of these things that cause disease, in a population in a natural system, right, they’re some of what they’re I don’t want to say job is but some of the role they play in the whole ecosystem is killing off some animals, and it’s a population control. We have chosen that we do not want that to happen to us and our dogs, obviously. And so then that’s the problem. Kind of those disease states happen as a, you know, ecosystem check of population in, you know, for any animals, so, it’s tricky when we’re trying to battle against that.
Kayla Fratt 19:59
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think most of our listeners are probably relatively familiar with, you know, predator control that happened in late 1800s, mid into like the mid 1900s. And you know how much that backfired on it ecosystem level. And ticks, I would argue, are less charismatic than wolves. Yeah, we just don’t know what happens when we remove them. So anyway, I don’t think any of our listeners actually have the power to do that. So maybe next we talk about prevention, what are some of our best bets for keeping ticks off. I would actually, personally, I’m more worried about getting ticks off of my dogs, because I very, very rarely, since I, you know, since I was like, 10, have not gotten a tick off of me, within a couple hours of attaching, you know, I’m not nearly as hairy, it’s my own body, it’s really easy to check. Versus my main working dog, Barley, is a long hair and black border collie. And I have to, you know, it’s 100% tactile to get the ticks off of him. So anything I can do to reduce them from attaching is really, really helpful because he is so hard to tick check. So what are some of our best bets?
Dr. Brian Herrin 21:14
There’s a variety of options and I will kind of go through the kind of big categories. One of them is topical products. And so these go on the animal, and they stay topically, they do not go into the body at all. And some of them are, there’s a permethrin products, there’s some collars out there, Fipronil products would fall into that, and it stays on the hair coat of the animal. And what I think is important for people to note about the topical products is that the ticks are exposed to that as soon as they start crawling in the hair coat. But they do not make a bubble, we’re not putting the animal in a hamster ball, it’s not really the same as kind of a repellent. They do have some kind of, my colleague termed it a “hot foot effect” where they start touching the product and it’s like putting your hand on an oven or stovetop and you’re like, oh, I don’t like that, you remove your hand really quickly, they start to do that. But every tick species is a little bit different. And so with the topical products, I just tell people that they can kill ticks before they attach, but they don’t have to or they don’t always. The tick may attach, and then it’s still continuously exposed to the product, and then they’ll die. But I think we should remove from our mind that any product is going to make a bubble that is completely protects our pets. So the topical products are good.
Dr. Brian Herrin 22:44
I will say that if you’re out, especially for these animals that are out working and doing a lot of things, the topical products can struggle over time. Because if they’re meant to be dosed for a full month, at the end of the month, if your dog has been out in the sun a lot, permethrin degrades in sunlight. If they’ve been in the water a bunch that can kind of dilute it out. And so you may have to consider whether it’s working through the whole month. And so that just kind of one of the concerns with the topical products is that they will degrade over time. So just being thoughtful about that.
Dr. Brian Herrin 23:18
And the other big class A group is systemic products. So there’s right now just one drug class for ticks – isoxazoline. And usually they’re a chewable pill. There is a version that is topical, but it’s absorbed through the skin. And in in that so people might know brand names: nexguard, bravecto. Bravecto has an oral or a topical version, Credelio is an oral version, Simparica. So many of the companies have a version of these. And so your veterinarian can kind of best tune you into which product might be best for your animal. But they’re systemic, meaning that the product is in the blood. And that tells us right then that the ticks have to attach to get that compound. And what we’re hoping, or what our goal is, is that tick dies before it can transmit pathogens. And that’s a lot of what my lab is interested in, is what’s happening early while these ticks are feeding. Are they dying before the pathogens are transmitted?
Dr. Brian Herrin 24:30
And so there’s lots of good products in both the topical and systemic products. And and one of the main things is none of them are 100%. So we have these working dogs that are going out into the fields and I always say, if a product’s 99% effective, but you send your dog out and it sees 1000 ticks running around through the woods, there’s ticks left there, right and that is an issue. So in some of these working dogs, combination of a systemic product, and a topical product is a good option and they don’t interact. So the systemic products, you would require a veterinary prescription, but they stay in the body and the topical products, they don’t go into the body. So the two products don’t interact. And it could be good seasonally, or, you know, during field trials or specific conservation work, that you say, Hey, I know we’re going out to this, you know, really ticky area, I’m just gonna double up and that’s a really good option for some of these hunting dogs or outdoor working dogs.
Kayla Fratt 25:33
Yeah, I think that’s – so we were on Bravecto, I believe, or Nexguard. I can’t remember, in Latin America is a little bit of back and forth, depending on which one you can pick up down there. But yeah, and when we were in Guatemala, I think I was pulling like 20, 30 ticks a day off of Barley. Probably two or three times a day, you know, every time we stopped it was just like, pulling dozens and dozens and, you know, I personally was not that much better, I think, partly because of his job and you know, doing all of the quartering into the brush, I was picking a lot up but it was pretty shocking. And he was also wearing his working vest; we spray permethrin on that. Yeah, so yeah, I think next time we’ll, you know, be spraying the permethrin more regularly, we might – would it be bad in that case to also add like a Seresto collar? Or would that really just not do anything on top of the permethrined jacket?
Dr. Brian Herrin 26:32
So, a few things. The permethrin collar, the Seresto collar, is impregnated with flumethrin, and they formulated it so that it’s meant to last, you know, six or eight months. And so it’s a slow release. It’s not a great option to put on your animal the day you’re going out, because it takes some dedicated time for it to start spreading out over the body. But if you know you’re going out for a field season and say, Yeah, all right, you know, I’ve got a couple of weeks of work or a couple of months of work, putting that on getting it kind of acclimated, and then leaving it on during the field season is a smart idea.
Dr. Brian Herrin 27:19
So as a product that works very well, in terms of you mentioned, removing ticks off the dog, that is something to think about with the systemic products, is it freaks some people out when they’re not used to it, because the ticks definitely are attached. Right. And, and that’s not a product failure. That’s how the products work. And then hopefully, those those ticks die, I think it is very important to do those tick checks afterwards. And then hopefully, that product is going to kill off any ticks you may miss. Like you said, sifting through a long hair, you know, black coat, you know, you’re gonna miss them. And so then really the tick prevention is kind of that last line of defense, any that are left on hopefully are killed, but sometimes owners that are new to using the systemic products. When they see ticks attached, like oh, no, this product doesn’t work at all. It’s, it’s how it works. And so you have to get used to those expectations, too.
Kayla Fratt 28:22
Yeah, I mean, it’s a poison. So they have to eat the poison. And they do that by biting. So on that note, is there anything that you know, I usually just use my fingers if needed tweezers and just yank ticks off. I’ve never been squeamish about that never had a huge problem with it. I know some people like trying to get creative with other ways to remove ticks. Is there any? Are there any pro tips for getting ticks off beyond just yanking?
Dr. Brian Herrin 28:49
Yeah, there’s nothing really fancy about it, you want to try to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible so that you don’t leave any mouthparts in there. And if you do accidentally break kind of the body off the mouthparts, it just turns into a splinter kind of in the body. It’ll get pushed out. But our goal is trying to get remove everything at once. So we’re trying to grasp as close to the skin as we can so we can get the mouth parts out. Usually using some kind of tweezers is the best option. And but there’s nothing really fancy. We see these like tools and things. Yeah, you can use them if you if you’d like to, but really just a pair of good tweezers that can get down to the skin. I like ones that look less like the ones you’re that you use from the side instead of the front end. Most people use tweezers to like pluck their eyebrows or something that using the front end of it but some of the tweezers are meant to be used sideways and then you can kind of get a grasp down more of the way you would use pliers where you’re kind of squeezing from the side and pull in. So that’s the kind of tweezers that we use that are meant to kind of grasp that way rather than Incheon kind of using them sideways. I think that gives a little bit more grip as well.
Kayla Fratt 30:08
Yeah, that makes sense. And that’s what I had heard. I guess I had also heard, you know, sometimes people get crazy about putting, I can’t even remember what they suggest, but putting something on the tick to get it to back itself out. I think I’ve heard that that can cause them to regurgitate as they’re going back out and actually increase the risk of disease. Have you heard anything like that? Is that true in any direction?
Dr. Brian Herrin 30:31
Yeah, we always get the kind of old ideas of people who say they would use a lighter to try to burn the ticks, or put Vaseline on them. There’s really not anything you can do. That’s going to make them drop off the, the Vaseline ideas like they would have to take a breath or something. Their breathing apparatus is on their side. And they’ve also shown that you can put ticks underwater for days and they live. Because if you think about them, like living kind of in that topsoil, if it floods, they have to be able to survive that flood. And so yeah, they can spend a lot of time without taking kind of a breath, if you kind of call it that. So really, again, the best way as you see a tick just to remove it not trying to do anything weird. And hear all those horror stories are like burning ticks off a dog and I feel so bad for the dog. You know, there’s no need to do that. We’ll just go ahead and pull them off.
Kayla Fratt 31:28
Yeah, I just have a hard time imagining doing that successfully with myself without burning myself, let alone the dog. Yeah, it seems very challenging. Yeah, so I guess Okay, so now we’ve gone through how to keep ticks off as best we can or kill them once they’re on what to do when we find them? What are some of those tick borne diseases that we should be worried about? And what are some of the symptoms that we can be watching for within that?
Dr. Brian Herrin 31:58
Yeah, there’s, there’s a whole suite of kind of diseases that ticks can transmit. Several of them are bacterial. So you mentioned Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, those are both bacteria. Dogs can get Borellia, which is Lyme disease in humans, again, a bacteria. And the vast majority of those require the tip to feed for some amount of time and a lot. A lot of people have in their mind, that tick needs to be attached for 24 hours before that pathogen can be transmitted. And the data that supports that comes from Lyme disease. That’s not so much true for some of our other bacterial diseases like Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which dogs can get, which is rickettsia. Some of those, we don’t know how fast they can transmit, we would assume that it may be a couple of hours, actually, just from laboratory studies. So again, the sooner that you can do your tip checks, remove those ticks, the sooner that, you know, we’re hoping our products are working rapidly as well, to try to kill those ticks, because I definitely don’t want anyone to have in their mind that like there is a full safe zone of 24 hours. And as long as you find that tick within 24 hours, you’re good. I I just don’t believe that’s actually true. So again, finding those ticks and removing them. So the bacterial diseases, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Lyme disease, big ones in dogs, and humans, honestly, there’s a couple of other protozoan diseases. And often we’ll hear about these in people whose veterinarian have accurate, you know, said I think this is a tick borne disease, started them on the doxycycline and did not see any improvement, because these are protozoa organisms. So organisms like Babesia, or Hepatozoon. And we often see these more in animals that interface with wildlife. So coyote interfaces with dogs, things like that. And again, tick transmitted but really much more associated with interacting with dog, wild canids or wildlife in general. Interesting.
Kayla Fratt 34:14
Yeah, I’ve got a good friend who managed to get herself both Lyme and what is the other be one that you just said?
Dr. Brian Herrin 34:21
Babesia? Yeah, humans have the Babesia microti. Dogs actually have a couple and so cool. There’s there’s a Babesia Canis. It’s much more common in Central and South America transmitted by rhipicephalus ticks, the indoor ticks. There’s some Babesia here that are out kind of in the wild coyotes and so we, I see cases and people who are using dogs to hunt coyotes specifically. And then there’s one that is in it’s kind of endemic area has a tick vector in the US Babesia gibsoni is actually transmitted blood to blood. And it’s associated mainly with dogfighting, unfortunately. And so when we think about things that are in the blood system, we also have to take into account that those could be transmitted just blood to blood contact, as well.
Kayla Fratt 35:17
Yeah, that makes sense. And then so one of the other ones that was mentioned, when we were when we were looking at Barley was kind of playing tick-borne paralysis. What is the disease ecology of that? Is that the right word? What is tick-borne paralysis?
Dr. Brian Herrin 35:34
It’s so tricky. So the tick bite paralysis is very variable. In the US, it is most associated with a tick Dermacentor variabilis, the American Dog Tick. And usually when the tick is attaching somewhere along the spine area, there seems to be a proximity effect, it does have a toxin that’s not well character characterized for dermacentor. Variabilis, the best and most characterized one is actually Ixodes holocyclus in Australia. And that tick was devastating. Because it causes paralysis, and it’s very repeatable. Like, it happens a lot with the nice thing about the new systemic products is they’re very effective. And so both in preventing the tick from feeding long enough to cause that. And for removing ticks, you know, if the dog comes in, in a paralyzed state, removing those ticks, because often, if an animal is paralyzed from tick by paralysis, it is associated the, like, the continued effects of it is associated with the tick still being attached. So if you can get that tick removed, then the dog the animal kind of recover. So in the US is kind of tricky to track in other continents, much more one to one and again, Ixodes holocyclus is like the poster child for it is a very problematic tick.
Kayla Fratt 37:16
Yeah, yeah, that was what we were really hoping it was going to be for Barley and then did not turn out to be the quite that simple of just getting a tick off of him. I mean, it sounds terrifying. But I do like the idea of something where you just remove it. So, you know, as we were saying, you know, barley, his big symptom that we were dealing with was is like paralysis, lack of proprioception, the very first symptom I saw from him, was we were about to go for a walk, and we pause to wait for my boyfriend. And as he turned, his front end, has one of his back feet, like flipped over. So it was kind of top of the toes down. I was like, Oh, that is a really scary, weird new proprioception thing I’ve never seen him do before. And then within four days, he couldn’t walk. He was falling over. Really, really scary stuff. But my veterinarians were really, they were like, This doesn’t seem typical to us. You know, we should really be looking for spinal lesions, we should be doing everything we can to potentially rule in or out Diem like, this doesn’t quite fit the tech stuff. So what does fit tech stuff? What should we be looking for?
Dr. Brian Herrin 38:25
Yeah, I think part of the issue is it can be really variable. from mild to severe as, as you were describing, for most of the tick borne diseases, when I chat about kind of things to look for. It’s fevers of unknown origin. And I know owners are not taking temperatures of their animals all the time. But kind of if, if you were to take your dog and it was like unknown fevers, that’d be one. Especially if at the vet clinic it was kind of going up and down and kind of see a waxing and waning. Muscle pain and joint pain are two big ones. And several of the tick borne diseases would cause what is shifting leg lameness where the owners may notice that they’re kind of seeing that they’re limping, have joint pain in the back left leg or something. By the time they get into the veterinarian, it seems to have moved the front right leg and the square was the back.
Dr. Brian Herrin 39:23
Yeah, you’re right. It probably was the kind of inflammation moves around and something. Shifting leg lameness is what they call it, were kind of its moving target. And so that muscle pain or muscle weakness can be another indicator of some of these common tick borne diseases, bleeding or bruising, so inappropriate for things like some of the Ehrlichia so we’re looking at gayness more common in South America and Central America than in the US but we You see it can have just Frank bleeding or nosebleed type of situations, or bruising where the owners like, you know, I mean, we played around, but we always play around outside. I don’t know why he’s got so many bruises. He’s got the petechiae. Yeah, it’s like these tiny little pinpoint hemorrhages in the skin, kind of bleeding or bruising, we’d say that falls in the line of, you know, things that can happen in tick borne diseases. So, kind of, as I said, there’s a wide variety of signs and symptoms that pop up progressing towards things that are neurologic. And I know, you experienced that, in where that that weakness was to the point of it was considering, you know, neurologic issues of spinal cord things. And there can be a variety, there’s been reported variety of neurologic signs associated with Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and rickettsia. In dogs.
Kayla Fratt 40:59
Yeah. And remind us rickettsia Is that another is that the protozoa one, or is that another bacteria?
Dr. Brian Herrin 41:05
So the rickettsia is a bacterial one. So Rickettsia rickettsii is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, humans get that. And that one is a very severe disease, it infects the blood vessels and causes a lot of inflammation. And so we see dogs get severe bleeding abnormalities, and that will be a medical emergency, honestly, yeah.
Kayla Fratt 41:28
Yeah, I can imagine. So okay, so it sounds like we don’t necessarily know how long the tick has to be embedded for some of these diseases to show up. Do we know roughly how long post bites symptoms show up in in general? Like, it sounds like this tick by paralysis can be immediate, and also almost immediate with removal? Obviously, these bacterial ones, you’re not going to cure it by removing the tick. But, you know, is it within a day, within a week? Do they have incubation periods? Does it depend?
Dr. Brian Herrin 41:58
Yeah, it does depend, I would say that. For things like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, we see clinical signs in the in the first week, for sure. So I would say, two to seven days, for Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, just a little bit longer. You know, in between five and 10 days, we start seeing clinical signs pop up. And, you know, when this is all experimental, you know, many people you know, at day five, their dog may have the faintest of signs, and you don’t notice and then by day, 10 is like, oh, there’s like something definitely going on where it’s kind of a progression upwards.
Dr. Brian Herrin 42:45
For things like Borellia or Lyme disease in dogs, it’s it’s very tricky, because the clinical signs are sometimes delayed. And so for Anaplasma. And actually, honestly, many of these tick borne diseases, they can be quiescent or they can go quiet for a while, and Rhea reemerge. And so they’ll try to go into hidden spots, or get down to a low enough number that the immune system can’t find them. And then reemerge when, you know, the settings are just right. And so we see that with Lyme disease in dogs Anaplasma, one of the Anaplasma in dogs does that quite frequently where it goes to a low low level and then re emerges, say your dog needs a steroid with for any other reason. That’s an immunosuppressive and some of these tick borne diseases will reemerge interesting, an immunosuppressive event? So it can be pretty tricky. I’d say most of the time, acute diseases in the first week to two weeks. But there’s always some long term. So quality potential.
Kayla Fratt 43:51
Yeah, that makes sense. And yeah, that kind of checks out with Barley. I, you know, I’m obsessed with him. So I’ve got 1,000,005 videos on my phone. And when, you know, we had that one trip on, I think it was a Saturday. And then I wasn’t sure that there was anything really happening until like Monday or Tuesday, and I was watching him like crazy. And then I was going back through my phone and looking at all the photos and videos of him. And, you know, I was able to say like, okay, for sure. On May 29. He was fine. You know, and then on June 4 was when I first noticed something, and then June 8 was when we got treatment started. And yeah, it’s just it’s it probably must have happened in between that 29th onwards, and particularly, honestly, just because of where we were in El Salvador during that like four or five day period. I have a hard time imagining that he picked up ticks where we were before that period, just because we’re kind of living on the beach and then we went up and stayed in the mountains for a couple days while I was recovering from LASIK. So I also might not have been doing my best tick checks ever. And as I said I’m not using my eyeballs to find ticks on him. So okay, so let’s say we’ve noticed some symptoms, you know, again, it could be just kind of something weird, something different. Maybe some of us are taking temperatures on our dogs regularly, some of us aren’t. What is our next step? You know, I’m assuming snap tests come in just because they’re super easy, but I’m assuming that’s not it.
Dr. Brian Herrin 45:19
Yeah, there’s, there’s a variety of tests. And actually, you know, first and foremost is heading to your favorite veterinarian and chatting with them, right? Because there’s a work of of diagnostics, the snap tests that you mentioned, these are in clinic antibody tests, and that they actually take a little bit of time for the antibodies to develop. And so if you were to say just a normal, like infection, when do we expect antibodies from an infection, just general, whatever, usually takes 10 to 14 days to generate an antibody response. And so those in clinic antibody tests are often unable to detect diseases in the first week, couple of days, right. And if we have something like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, that is like a very aggressive disease, if we were waiting for an antibody response, we probably we could potentially have a dead dog before he had an antibody response. And so that Rocky Mountain spotted fever has not on any of those in clinic tests.
Dr. Brian Herrin 46:24
So while the veterinarian may in clinic look for antibodies to kind of give them evidence, there’s also send out tests. So they do PCR on whole blood, because you’re able often able to detect the pathogens, so Ehrlichia Anaplasma, they’re circulating in the blood rickettsia is a little trickier, because it’s actually in the vessels, but kind of once those start blowing up, then you can often find it. Most tricky for Lyme disease or Borellia in dogs because it does not like to be in the blood. It likes to hide out and move around to the tissues and up in joints and things like that. And so there’s a variety of diagnostic tests they may use to kind of rule in or rule out. But really, if your veterinarian was said, Hey, I need to look at some bloodwork. So chemistry and CBC are looking at the blood counts, many of these tick borne diseases infect the blood cells, and cause issues in the blood cells. So a CBC is a really great place for your veterinarian to start out, may do those antibody testings and may send off or some other kind of confirmatory tests on whole blood.
Dr. Brian Herrin 47:36
But it can be really tricky to get these diagnoses. And sometimes veterinarians say You know, I have a huge high suspicion that this is a tick borne disease and a may want to start your dog on doxycycline. While we’re waiting for more information to come back, because waiting is just not going to help out anything. And so we’ll start some doxycycline, we’ll get some results back. And we may reinterpret our use of that doxycycline once we get some more information, but let’s go start on something right now.
Kayla Fratt 48:06
Yeah, that’s what we did. You know, they were like, Let’s, let’s get you on Doxy, we’ll get Barley on Doxy. And a couple other supplementary things, because his liver, liver levels were also really, really off. So they put him on something for the liver, and then put them on some sort of neurotransmitter some more support as well. This was event in El Salvador. So a lot of these medicines. I’m like, furiously Googling them, because I’ve never heard of them, which obviously, I haven’t been to med school. So I don’t expect to have heard of everything. But yeah, and you know, they said, why don’t we do that while we wait to get him into an MRI, and get, you know, some of these other tests going. And then we ended up canceling the MRI because of whatever it was the Doxy really did its job. But that was kind of our plan.
Dr. Brian Herrin 48:53
And that is a nice day when I chat with owners about dogs that have, you know, suspect tick borne diseases, and especially if it’s pretty significant disease, or clinical signs, the doxycycline you start to see some pretty quick changes. Yeah, if it is one of these bacterial diseases, now, not the protozoan diseases, not right kind of other things. But, you know, having a good feel checking back in with your veterinarian and saying, Hey, we’re two days, three days out, I’m already seeing some, you know, improvement. That’s good. That’s good feedback, good news to like, let’s keep doing things or, Hey, we’re two days out and it’s getting worse. And it’s getting worse in the face of of doxycycline. It’s very effective against these bacterial pathogens. Then it may be time to like, you know, start considering other things going on. Other tick borne diseases, just other diseases in general. And not just continuously waiting for you know, the whole 30 days of doxycycline to like completely clear everything, they get better pretty rapidly. So it’s a good feedback system to have if you think you’re on the right track.
Kayla Fratt 50:12
Yeah, we really did see improvement within a couple of days. And I would say within a week, and then yeah, it was it was kind of like it improved for a week, and then it plateaued for four or five days, and then I would get really scared again, and then it would start improving again, and then plateau again, and yeah, so I guess on that note, then what? What is prognosis? Like? And again, I know this varies massively depending on what the dog actually has. But do most dogs if treated appropriately, fully recovered from tick borne illnesses? Or are they certain illnesses where you might be dealing with symptoms or kind of repercussions for life?
Dr. Brian Herrin 50:52
Yeah, it does vary. One of the things on the treatment, I think worth mentioning is, although the animals do get better, fairly rapidly, if your dog if the dog is back to normal, after seven days, you should still continue the full course of antibiotics that your veterinarian recommends, because, as I mentioned, sometimes they just go into hiding on a low level, and that can come back. And so even if you are like, oh, man, dogs good as new, after seven days, if your veterinarian has prescribed, you know, 28 days, or whatever it is, it’s best to follow the full course of antibiotics, because there are some long term issues.
Dr. Brian Herrin 51:27
And really, it varies, I think, with most of these tick borne diseases, prompt administration of treatment can get most of these dogs back to 100%.
Kayla Fratt 51:42
Cool, yeah, that’s good to hear.
Dr. Brian Herrin 51:44
Some scary ones, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, it is scary for humans and dogs, even in the face of treatment, there is really a high mortality honestly. And so the sooner that treatment is initiated, the better the prognosis, you can imagine, if you’re kind of blowing up the blood vessels, you can do a lot of damage pretty quickly. So trying to get that turned around. Some of these, like Lyme disease in dogs is really interesting. It doesn’t present in the same way it does in humans. And actually, one of the major issues is the immune response kind of complexes with, you know, just weird. I don’t know, backyard debris, I gotta say, honestly, the antigens, and those antibody antigen complexes deposit in the kidneys, and cause long term kidney damage. And so it’s not the bacteria. So you think like, oh, just gonna give more doxycycline? Well, the, it’s not the bacteria doing it. It’s not the bacteria, Swiss cheesing through the kidneys and causing damage. It’s the deposition of these kind of antigen antibody complexes. And if you think of it similar to, you know, if your sink just starts getting clogged up with random junk, that’s what’s happening, the kidneys are filtering the blood, there’s these antigen antibody complexes, you start to just clog up the kidneys with junk and it’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing. So long term kidney damage is actually one of the issues with Lyme disease in dogs. And it’s really, really tricky to get that treatment initiated in a timely manner in which these long term things don’t happen. And because it can be very separated from the acute phase of the disease. So I think overall, most prognosis would be pretty good with Yeah, prompt starting point of starting of treatment, but they you know, I think your veterinarian can do a pretty good job of setting some expectations, because it can be tricky.
Kayla Fratt 53:53
Yeah. So on the note of Lyme, there is a vaccine for Lyme, right? Is that something that you generally recommend people? Go ahead and do you know, we were just talking to someone about rattlesnakes. And, you know, there’s a lot of a lot of hesitancy and doubt around the vaccine for rattlesnake bites. It seems like within with good reason. But live vaccine, how well does it work?
Dr. Brian Herrin 54:20
So, the vaccine is effective. So there’s a wide variety from companies they are they are effective vaccines. And what what you can see from the data at least is, if a, if a clinic implements vaccination, that clinic will see less positive tests and less clinical dogs. And we know that now what it’s been pitched as, and I think this is appropriate that these that vaccine is not a core vaccine. For for the vast majority of parts, it’s a risk-based vaccine. So if you live in a high risk area, so for Lyme disease, if you live in Pennsylvania, your veterinarian may consider it like, standard, like, yeah, he would, he or she would very heavily recommend this vaccine. But it’s not core in the way like a rabies vaccine is cool. Everyone’s got to do it. So it’s a risk based. And the risk, if you’re in an endemic area is very high. So you may get recommended every time you go. If you’re on the fringe areas of where Lyme diseases commonly found, your veterinarian may ask you, oh, you know, do you go hunting up in Wisconsin? Do you you go back and see family and do nature hikes, this vaccine might be recommended for you. So I’m here in Kansas, very low risk for Lyme disease in the state. My neither of my dogs are vaccinated for it. But if I were to go do some summer trips, you know, in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, wherever and take them with me, I would want to have them vaccinated. It’s just another layer of safety. Yeah. And kind of that arctic controls 99%. And we like that. But you know, if something breaks through, let’s just go ahead and prevent the chance that the disease slips through as well.
Kayla Fratt 56:20
Yeah, yeah. Well, especially for Lyme because it is such a tricky disease on so many levels. That, yeah, it’s nice that that it does exist for live, it’d be nice if we had one for all of them. But yeah, I’m glad it exists for Lyman. Yeah, both of my dogs are vaccinated. And it was it was tricky getting them vaccinated at first, because, you know, I was living in Colorado, and then Montana and my vets didn’t necessarily have it on hand. And I’d be like, Oh, I’m about to go do fieldwork in northeast Nebraska. I’d really like now. But before I go there, and we ended up just having to do vaccine on the ground in Nebraska, because they just didn’t have it in Montana.
Dr. Brian Herrin 57:00
Yeah, and I think veterinarians also are getting much better at you know, recognizing the huge movement of people and animals, you know, around the our pets are almost always with us now. And so having options to provide care for things that are not found in their region, I think it’s much more common to find places that stalk a few vaccines or are able to get that for you just because you’re traveling. And so having those conversations with your veterinarian of like, what your lifestyle is, really helps them kind of, okay, what prevention plan is best for you based off of your lifestyle.
Kayla Fratt 57:44
Yeah, yeah. That’s, that makes sense, which is one of my most overused phrases I find whenever I edit these podcasts. So is there anything that you’d like to expand on circle back to or that I didn’t ask you about that people should be thinking about as far as keeping their dogs safe from a tick borne diseases?
Dr. Brian Herrin 58:05
Um, I think there’s some interesting things in how we look at the data for dogs exposure to tick borne diseases that’s like this crowd might find interesting. Yeah. Because the in clinic antibody tests are done on a yearly basis with heartworm tests. We have a lot of data on where dogs test positive. And in fact, there’s now multiple publications showing that if dogs test positive for specific diseases in a region, we know that that that increases the chance that humans will also test positive for that disease. So because of the more routine testing, we’ve been able to use dog testing to help us track the spread of where these diseases are going. Because human reporting is difficult, right? Then someone has to choose to go to the doctor, they have to get the right test and be diagnosed with the disease, versus many of these antibody tests are just done yearly on a wellness exam.
Dr. Brian Herrin 59:18
And so one of the cool things that the veterinary community has done is created risk maps for these diseases that are more accurate than any rat risk map that you would create for modeling where humans have been infected with with these pathogens, because of the more routine nature of it, the huge number of tests that the veterinary community is able to do. And so some of the modeling that’s being done right now, by the companion animal parasite Council, is very interesting in showing like where some of these tick borne diseases are moving and really where humans are at risk of being infected as well.
Kayla Fratt 59:57
Yeah, definitely. Because you know, as scary as it was to have my dog fall ill with a tick borne disease, or a pair of them. I also really don’t want Lyme or any of these other, you know, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Yeah, so I guess maybe it sounds like this companion animal parasite council would be a good place to go if people are interested in, you know, cross referencing where they live with some of these range maps.
Dr. Brian Herrin 1:00:27
Yeah, they have cool forecast maps of like, where they expect kind of the high endemic areas to be each year. They also have county level maps, in which you can go to your state click on your county, and you see the number of tests that have been done in your county and the percent that are positive, right, and the data on that can be skewing, right, if you go in the middle of nowhere, and a clinic has two tests, and one of them is positive, then that counts 50% positive, like that’s pretty scary.
Dr. Brian Herrin 1:00:57
But many of these counties have a high number of tests kind of normalize the data out. And so you can get an idea of what the risk is in your area. And so the maps, the county maps are like, true data points. That’s the number of tests that were done in this county, you can choose which year so 2022, that can look. And that is like actual numbers of tests, that is not modeled made up data, this is the number of tests that were done. And then the percent there are positive. And then the forecast maps are really this the statisticians incorporating, you know, temperature, environmental changes that might affect the flow of where we see these diseases and predicting, okay, this year, we expect kind of this disease to spread in this way. And so there’s some forecasts and maps. And those are again, kind of our predictions of what is to come. Yeah.
Kayla Fratt 1:01:50
Wow, that sounds really fascinating and super helpful. So we’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes. And, you know, per usual to our non North American listeners, I hope that there’s something like this that you guys can find.
Dr. Brian Herrin 1:02:03
Yeah, I’ll say that. There’s a lot of parasitology associations, so trop cap would be the one. So it’s a tropical parasite group, that would cover kind of Central and South America. There’s a European Society of parasitology. So s cap, companion animal parasitology, they actually started to do their own maps, as well. So this is becoming a thing where people want to know where these diseases are, what the risk is, as they move around. And so lots of these organizations are attempting to put together some general ideas on kind of what diseases you might expect in this area, and kind of what the relative risk would be.
Kayla Fratt 1:02:48
Yeah, yeah. Well, that that’s gonna be really, really helpful. And I yeah, I’m excited to be able to share that with people. I’m gonna go check, because I just saw I just moved to Corvallis, Oregon, like three weeks ago, I don’t, I don’t know what’s out here. Well, what I need to be watching for, so I’ll be checking that out after we get off. So Brian, we’re gonna link all of this in the show notes. But where can people other than those resources that we just mentioned, where can people go if they want to learn more about you or tick borne diseases?
Dr. Brian Herrin 1:03:18
Really, I keep a low profile. So you know, I we’re here at Kansas State University. My position is part research, part diagnostics. So I work in the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. And if anyone has questions on ticks, tick borne diseases or parasites in general, they could contact me through K State at the College of Veterinary Medicine here or the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. And I’m always happy to chat about parasites in general, with owners and veterinarians.
Kayla Fratt 1:03:52
Great. Yeah. Well, we’ll send an army of canine conservationists to tell you all about their weird parasites that they’ve picked up.
Kayla Fratt 1:04:00
I mean, it’s, it’s fun. We’re just saying, Yeah, I had hookworm once. I have not yet gotten my bot fly. But what? I’m sure
Dr. Brian Herrin 1:04:00
Dr. Brian Herrin 1:04:12
Yeah, if you’re spending a lot of time in Central and South America, it definitely –
Kayla Fratt 1:04:17
I mean, I’ll take that 500 times over leishmaniasis. So that’s what I’m just trying to –
Dr. Brian Herrin 1:04:23
There’s certain things you can tolerate, and certain things that are like no, it’s a no for me.
Kayla Fratt 1:04:27
Yeah, I mean, I’m not excited about it. It looks gross, but I just read a book on some about some explorers and hunters were just like, all of them got leishmaniasis, and it just sounded terrible.
Kayla Fratt 1:04:39 So on that note, I hope that everyone is still excited to go outside and be a canine conservationist in whatever way suits their passions and skill set. Don’t forget your permethrin. And as always, you can find our show notes, donate to K9Conservationists, join our Patreon learning club and book club, or sign up for our handler course all at k9conservationists.org. Until next time!