(Written off-line roughly May 13, 2008 )
Tonight I pulled a tick off of Ross’s chin. That is the third one this week, and I’m worried. I have not found a tick on any of my dogs in 2 years. The last one was on Hannah when she was sick with hookworms. Prior to that it had been another 2 years since I had encountered any ticks on my dogs.
In areas that are really tick infested, I suspect it is unavoidable to end up with ticks on your dogs. But around here, despite what vets say, they are not that common. As such, I see ticks showing up on one single dog as a sign of an underlying health problem.
When I first adopted Ross he was kibble fed, overweight, out of shape, heavily vaccinated, on tick, flea and heartworm preventative, had untreated hypothyroidism and elevated kidney and liver functions. In the first month I had him, he picked up dozens of ticks (despite being well doused in tick repellent). My other dog – raw fed since I got her at 7 weeks and relatively healthy – did not pick up a single tick in that time.
After getting Ross into shape, switching him to raw, stopping the vaccines and other toxins, and treating him homeopathically, he stopped picking up ticks. It has been four years since he’s had a tick, and I walk him in the woods nearly every day. This week he’s picked up 3, and neither of my other dogs has picked up any. If they also were collecting these parasites, I would not be as worried, but the fact that they are gravitating to one dog is of concern.
Parasites are attracted to weak immune systems. In dogs, for example, contracting worms (other than tape worm) over the age of 2 is a big red flag warning about their overall health. This is one reason why it is best not to worm regularly – if you worm monthly, you will never know if your dog picks up these parasites, and then you miss this warning sign that something else is going on. I believe the same is true of ticks and fleas (and mange), at least around where I live where a hard freeze keeps their numbers down.
So Ross is picking up ticks. I know I keep worrying about his state of health, but I have learned to trust my instincts. To look at him you would think he was the picture of health: his coat is soft, silky and hardly sheds. His teeth are white, his breath smells good, his digestion is great. He does have slight wax build up in his ears, and he’s been a bit itchy since spring arrived. But otherwise there’s nothing I can put my finger on. Just a gut feeling that something’s up.
As I’ve written before, Ross lost a lot of weight this winter, and also started acting a bit wild and crazy. I discussed this with a vet who said that if he lost weight, he likely was getting too much of his thyroid medication, which could lead to his behaving hyperthyroid. I cut his meds in half, and he very quickly regained his weight, and stabilized in temperament. But I am still wondering: why did he lose the weight in the first place? I think the reason is that he regained some thyroid function first, which led to his metabolism speeding up, and this was followed by weight loss, which led to his further over-medication. Basically a feed-back loop that caused him to deteriorate. That has been adjusted and stabilized now, but I still don’t know why his thyroid function picked up in the first place. Of course it is theoretically possible that it is because it just regained function because of his raw diet, homeopathic and chiropractic treatment etc. That would be my hope and would mean all is very well.
But perhaps there is another reason – for example, a thyroid tumour. Of course now I’m sounding like a hypochondriac. But at the chiropractor this week, she mentioned that she felt heat coming off the area linked to his thyroid. Is that just because of the regained function? Or is something else going on? I am desperate to get bloodwork done on him to find out what that turns up. But I am still struggling financially, earning just enough to pay the bills and no more. Even more frustrating, my job ended 2 weeks ago. Until I have something else secured, this is just going to have to wait, hopefully for not too much longer…