Category Archives: Rescue Dogs

Strange Wetlands: Preventing a Lesser Known Tick-Borne Illness, Anaplasmosis

My trusty dog, Sophie-Bea, a dachshund-pointer, and I frequently walk through wetlands. First, my land is rich in wetlands: a black ash seep, which I call “Fern Gully,” a vernal pool with wood frogs and sallies, and a perennial stream that flows into Raymond Pond. We like to walk along a pine-needled path from my woods down to the pond and back. Lately, a thick mustard yellow froth of pollen coats the surface of the pond. If I had let the dog wade in the water, she would have come out looking more like a yellow lab, albeit a weirdly shaped one. (She’s black and white.) At the edge of the pond, she sniffed the water and it turned her pointy black nose into a clownish canary blotch.  IMG_0295

This time of year, we’re more mindful of ticks. In addition to treating her with Frontline, I pat her down with a natural bug repellant called Skeeter Skedaddle™ – the kind that’s dog-friendly. I love how it smells. I wear it, too, and slathered it on that day, like any other day. I made the mistake of wearing sandals though and by the time I got home, I unstrapped the sandals to find a fat tick stuck to the top of my foot. It glowed red in its belly. I pulled it off and noticed two bite marks. After disposing of the tick, which is unwise to flush into the toilet I’ve learned, but to burn the tick with a match (carefully in the sink), I applied witch hazel and hydrogen peroxide onto the bites, along with a dab of antibacterial ointment. It doesn’t itch. It did worry me.

A year ago this month, I came down with a terrible flu-like illness called Anaplasmosis. It’s a tick-borne illness caused by a tick bite from a tick infected with the germ called Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Last summer, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention sent out an alert about Anaplasmosis. The alert explained that cases of Anaplasmosis are on the rise in Maine. Previously, it was rare for someone to contract this illness from a tick bite in the Pine Tree State. Even in summer 2012, hospitals misdiagnosed people with “the flu,” when in some cases, it was actually this Anaplasmosis. In my case, it was most likely Anaplasmosis, since I walk through the woods often and come into contact with areas known to inhabit ticks. I occasionally find ticks in my home.

Symptoms of Anaplasmosis include fever, headache, malaise, severe body aches, cough, joint pain, stiff neck and confusion.  In June 2012, I thought I’d eaten a bad avocado, or been exposed to the bad kind of an algae bloom while swimming in the lake. (I wrote about the algae bloom in my Adventures of Fen Fatale series.) At the time, I was working for ASWM and I started to feel sick on a Monday–sweaty, coming down with a fever, nausea. Images of globs of algae clung to me as I suffered through a fever of 102 degrees for two days. On Tuesday night, I called 911 and the EMTs came to my house, since I was convinced I was dying of some kind of poison,  tetanus or some other ill fate. It felt like my organs had seized up and everything hurt.  Chills all over. The body aches were so severe that I had to crawl down the stairs to let the EMTs into my house (rather than let them bust in the door). The EMTs found me delirious from the fever. Even after the fever came down on Wednesday, I couldn’t walk for a few days; my relatives came to take care of me, since I was bedridden. (This is highly unusual for me, since I have an almost superhuman immune system.) It was frightening, too.

See fact sheets, prevention info and notices to Maine residents from the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention here. 

Since then, I’ve done some research on how to prevent this from happening again. The reality is that Anaplasmosis is treated differently than that of Lyme Disease. When a person suspects that a tick bite has left that tell-tale sign, a bull’s eye shaped bite, that person has an option of getting an anti-biotic to prevent the onset of Lyme Disease. The same is not true for those who might have contracted Anaplasmosis. The main “prevention” is to reduce exposure to ticks by wearing appropriate clothing and checking clothes and skin for ticks. Apparently, in cases of people contracting Anaplasmosis, they often don’t remember getting a tick bite, and there is no tell-tale bull’s eye mark. For specific prevention and treatment information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/anaplasmosis/ . If you do get a tick bite, pay attention to symptoms if they occur. If you get a fever, and think you might have come into contact with a tick, contact your doctor or a health professional. Treatment is important. Anaplasmosis can be serious, or fatal, in babies, toddlers, elderly people and those with a compromised immune system. For others, it can mean a week of severe body aches, fever, malaise, etc. It certainly knocked the wind out of my sails.

Read these related blog posts:

Mosquitoes, ticks and bees are summer hazards, as are sunshine and poison ivy – Washington Post Blog – June 17, 2013

Drs. Oz and Roisen: Tick, tick, tick  – June 2013

Tick-borne disease is on the rise in Maine and Anaplasmosis in particular – May 2013

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Gundogs Go for Wetlands

November is hunting season in many states. As I walked my bird-dog around the pond, she looked out across the water with curious longing: a flock of ducks, just specks with wings to my eye, skimmed the surface hundreds of yards away. Because I’m not a hunter, I didn’t think about her interest in the sport. She came from Arkansas, a young rescue dog. I don’t know anything about her past because she was found abandoned on the side of a busy highway; but I can guess. She’s a sensitive bird-dog, also called a gundog. When I researched the breed before adopting my pointer-mix (she’s also part-dachshund, making her small for a pointer—only 25 pounds), I learned that if there’s one place a gundog likes to be, it’s in a wetland. Sure enough, my Sophie-Bea is a water-loving dog. She loves to run along the trails around the ponds, prance and hop like a fox through the marshes and meadows near my home. When she catches a deer’s scent, she points her snout and stands absolutely still. Although I don’t take my dog hunting, most gundogs live for it. http://www.gundogs.com/

So what makes a gundog? Of the three main types of hunting dogs, gundogs are the water-dogs, which include retrievers, pointers and setters. Hounds and terriers make up the other two hunting dog groups. Retrievers are good at swimming (most have webbed feet) and retrieving the downed prey (in most cases, waterfowl) and then returning it to the hunter. Pointers, considered the most intelligent of the gundogs, literally point to the prey by standing rigid and aiming their nose in the direction of the quarry. Setters are trained to crouch in front of the prey so that it can’t escape before the hunter traps it with a net. Any good bird-dog shows a hunter the location of prey and retrieves the downed birds. Bird-dog experts encourage dog owners to send the puppies through professional gundog training, which can take three or four months. http://www.hightest.com/gundogtraining.php They can start as young as 7 months old. The dogs learn how to lie still behind a duck blind, to flush waterfowl and to retrieve birds that have been shot.  Bird-dogs practice by retrieving decoys in the water in a variety of hunting situations and in both wetlands and uplands. Before adopting a gundog, a hunter must consider the climate, long-range or short-range hunting styles, temperament of the breed, intelligence, size, level of exercise needed (gundogs are usually high energy), male or female—with dominant or submissive traits found in both genders, and finally, trainability. The biggest question is what will the gundog be hunting? If, for example, the bird-dog will be hunting for geese, a larger dog like an Irish setter will be more accustomed to the cold water. Somehunters go into upland areas like prairies in addition to wetlands. For example, pointers are popular in pheasant hunts because they don’t startle the birds prematurely. To help choose the right gundog breed for a hunter, there are online questionnaires and quizzes http://www.dog-names.org.uk/dog-quiz.htm Game and Fish Magazine has a good list of five easy steps for ensuring success with a bird-dog. Gundogs are the sensitive type:http://www.gameandfishmag.com/hunting/
hunting-dogs/RA_1005_03/

While most gundogs are trained for hunting for waterfowl, others are trained for search and rescue. http://www.wetlandretrievers.net/

There’s even a “Wetlands” themed formula among the natural dog food brands, called Taste of the Wild: 
http://www.tasteofthewildpetfood.com/products/dogs/wetlands_canine_formula/