Travels With My Spaniel by Sara Walker

Like all responsible dog owners, we were aware before coming to France that many of the French ticks carry a parasite known as Piroplasmosa Canis, which causes a potentially fatal canine disease called piroplasmosis or ‘piro’. We’d taken the advice of several vets on the subject, and decided to treat Monty regularly with a preventative anti-tick product known as Advantix.

The consensus of all the vets we’d asked seems to be that Advantix gives the best protection in certain regions, as some French ticks seem to be developing an immunity to Frontline*. Advantix is readily available from UK vets (although they may have to order it in), French vets and French pharmacies. Also alavilable from Keen Pharmacy (Veterinary Prescription Required)

The ticks are more active in warmer, wetter weather, so spring and autumn tend to be the danger periods. However, with our changing climate, the danger periods are potentially increasing. We’ve just spent three weeks in the Haute-Garonne, and, although we weren’t seriously worried about ticks in January, we’ve kept up with Monty’s three-weekly doses of Advantix.Last week, after spending the afternoon at a friend’s house, I returned in the late afternoon to find Monty curled in his bed rather than waiting at the door to greet me. I know that lethargy is one of the most common signs of piro, so I’m immediately suspicious. When I discover that my lively, greedy dog has no interest in his dinner, I phone the vet immediately.Different dogs react to the infection in different ways, and symptoms will differ according to the individual dog and the stage of the disease, but the most common signs are:

lethargy and loss of appetite

  • fever, shivering and elevated temperature
  • dark urine
  • anaemia (to test for this, press a finger against your dog’s gum. When you release the pressure, the blood should return immediately. If the spot stays pale for a few seconds, it can indicate a problem).

Dogs bitten by an infected tick typically start to show symptoms within 24 – 48and the disease can be rapidly fatal. The dog’s kidneys try to filter out the infected blood cells, and are themselves damaged in the process. It’s important to catch the disease as quickly as possible to limit the possibility of kidney damage, so although Monty’s temperature is normal, after a quick conversation with the veterinary nurse I decide to play it safe and scoop him into the car.

Once at the surgery, Monty decides he’s feeling much better and even accepts a biscuit from one of the nurses. I’m starting to feel I’ve over-reacted, but the vet stresses that we should do the test done anyway for peace of mind.

I lift Monty onto the table and François, the vet, carries out a thorough physical examination, but finds nothing wrong. Next, he takes a sample of urine using a catheter. If piro is present, the urine will be dark due to the presence of red blood cells as the body tries to filter the infection. To my shock, the concentration of blood cells in Monty’s urine indicates that piro might be a possibility, and François proceeds to the next test, a blood sample.

He takes a tiny, tiny dot of blood from the inside of Monty’s ear and smears it onto a slide for examination under the microscope. This test is not always definitive, as it depends on being able to visually pinpoint the telltale double circles inside the healthy blood cells. However, in Monty’s case the sample shows a single infected cell. The diagnosis is positive.

Depending on the region, French vets see thousands of cases of piro a year, and François is soon swinging into action. He gives Monty a course of three injections to combat the infection, and follows with a short course of tablets designed to protect kidney function. He sends us home with instructions not to worry, as he’s happy we’ve caught the infection in the very early stages, and tells us to come back first thing in the morning if Monty isn’t hugely improved. In the event, Monty seems much brighter even leaving the surgery, and after a proscribed wait of two hours in case the drugs make him vomit, he eats his dinner normally.

After two days, we take him back to the surgery for a further urine test to make sure that he’s fully recovered. We’re worried that he’s managed to pick up the infection despite our regular dosing with Advantix, and quiz the vets thoroughly on steps we can take in the future.

For more information, please visit this articles web page.
This article was published on May 02, 2013.
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