Friday, April 17, 2009

An Unknown Killing Disease Linked To Ticks

****For those of you who are arriving here from that message board...they do not know what is specifically killing these cattle. The DEER have tested positive for Anaplasmosis. SOME of the cattle are testing positive for Blue Tongue, a disease that kills primarily White Tailed Deer. They pick a "bug" larvae up from drinking stagnent water and it wrecks their intestines. That should not be happing this time of year, as the dams have only recently thawed and the cattle are primarily drinking from fresh water tanks. And it has never been known to infect cattle before either!!

Anaplasmosis is also a pathogen that primarily affects White Tail Deer. No one has ever seen it in Mule Deer before. So they believe that this form could be a mutation. However, none of the tests that have been done on the cattle are confirming that Anaplasmosis is what is killing the cattle.

If this disease has in fact mutated...they have no idea of what all types of animals it could or could not infect. There are more questions than answers at the moment.

People in Nebraska are noticing a winter tick infestation on their horses as well. This is definitely a growing concern to animal owners all over this area. Primarily, it has hit particularly hard after the spring storms we have had. The animals are stressed and that is all it seems to take. Once they go's over...they die. One of the primary symptoms seems to be rapid weight loss, weakness and hairloss. Some of the animals look like they have been starved for quite some time and yet only a few days before they were fine.

Can whatever is going on affect horses? No one knows. No one thought what was killing the deer could infect the cattle either. While they are linked, it is not the same thing. As awful as it sounds, I hope the only reason those horses are dying is from starvation. If this disease/pathogen has mutated to where it could in fact infect horses and there is no remedy, it will be worse than the West Nile epidemic that swept the country.

Cattle are dying in the western part of South Dakota. Numerous cattle!!

One place lost 51 head. Another 40+(and counting)...another 11 bulls...another over 100 head of bred cows, dead.

And you know what?

They don't have much of a clue of what this is killing them. The local vets are working overtime, running every test known, involving veterinary colleges and...the Game, Fish and Parks.

Awhile back I posted about the multitude of deer dying around my mom's place. Based on the condition of the deer-wasting away to nothing before dying...We assumed that it was Chronic Wasting Disease. Well, mom contacted G,F&P about these deer and for months, they blew us off.

Yea...not so much these days!

I'll back this story up a bit, so everyone knows what we this point!

A few years ago, mom started noticing ticks on her horses in the winter. The first year, just a few. We thought it was odd. Normally, ticks just don't survive in the winters around here. But for many years, we have had abnormally mild winters. Sooo...we rather assumed that it just wasn't getting cold enough to kill them off or cause them to hibernate(or whatever they do).

Last winter, every horse at my mom's was absolutely infested with ticks. Hundreds of them. Plus, we were finding horse lice. We treated everything and that seemed to be the end of the problem.

This winter, we have kept a pretty close eye on everything and sure enough, in February we started finding ticks and lice on the horses again. Not everything this year though. So we treated anyone we found with them.

So, for the last couple of years, there have also been dying deer around the area. No one really seemed overly concerned...because it seemed that only the Mule deer have been affected and with the overpopulation, it seemed nature was just taking care of herself. This year, the deer have had a dramatic die-off. They would get thin and their hair looked like it was shedding in huge patches. They looked just awful and then they would just die. Wherever they happened to be standing. I'm not kidding. One was walking along the fence line and just fell over dead.

So far, we have removed about 20 from the yard this winter and after the last blizzard, the draw below the house has at least 6 dead deer in it. The thing is...these deer are all coated in ticks.

Then stories started surfacing about people losing cattle. Once those stories started to surface, you heard stories that people had noticed their cows didn't look very good and were covered in ticks, so they had had to treat the middle of the winter!

Now, it's really coming out. The livestock papers are running stories of dying cattle and it even made the news. Some of the cattle tested came back positive for Blue Tongue. A disease that kills off White Tail deer. We had that about 10 years ago around here. But they do not know WHAT, specifically is killing the cattle.

The deer apparently are dying of Anaplasmosis. A tick-born disease that can infect ANY animal that is bitten by an infected tick. So far, the only known deaths associated with this disease is in fact the deer. They are not entirely sure that this is what is killing the cows, as the tests have not confirmed a definite disease or pathogen.

As they come out with more information...I'll keep you all posted. This is a new problem in our area and much like the spread of West Nile, nothing has any immunity to it. All they have been able to conclude is that it is most likely being spread by a new type of winter hatching tick. So far, no equine deaths have been associated with this disease, but that does not mean that horses, or pets or people cannot be infected.

Link to News story and video provided curtesy of SunnyinSD...Thanks!

Oh, and hey....That's my primary veterinarian!! Norma rocks. Don't get on her bad side though.;-)


Pony Girl said...

Holy cow, BEC! That is really scary. I remember panicking about the bird flu. People often wonder about the hype of these things, but I think the threat is just on the verge of becoming a major, major issue with livestock. I'm glad the "authorities" are working on solving the problem. And I am glad to see no horses, other animals, or people have been affected yet! Keep us posted for sure!

Once Upon an Equine said...

That sounds like the makings of a horror movie for the SciFi channel. Winter hatching ticks...that is creepy. Nasty, nasty things. I hope they find a solution quickly. Do you all drench yourself in bug spray while working outdoors?

Chelsi said...

I dont know why it is but stories like these give me the heeby jeebies! I guess it is fear of the unknown? I dont like the sounds of it, either way. Why is it that the government never takes action until it is too late? Here in BC we have a HUGE problem with a little bug called the Pine Beattle.... they are killing off most of the pine trees (and the foresty industry they once supported) on a massive scale... as in 13.5 million hectares (to put that in perspective, the entire state of Washington is 17.2 million hectares). The government and enviromentalists sat on their hands and didnt do enough about it until it was too late.

I hope that they figure out what is going on with the cattle in your area soon... the last thing these ranchers need during times like these is disease!

SunnySD said...

Yikes! And here I thought West Nile was a worry. Ticks are usually awful here in the spring, although I haven't noticed any over the winter. For whatever reason, the dying cows haven't registered here, at least in the local paper that I've noticed.

Crossing my fingers they discover something soon as to cause and that there's some sort of simple (and inexpensive) solution!

SunnySD said...

Ah - I see Kelo TV has jumped on the story now: There's video, too.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a google account, that why I'm anonymous. I'm posting from Edmonton, Alberta. Normally I just lurk, but this tick problem reminded me of ticks on moose which can cause death of the moose. It might be relevant for your situation so I thought I would post a couple of links: A pdf, the information about lethality is on page 3. There is a book that might be interesting if you want more information: "White as a Ghost, Winter Ticks and Moose" by Bill Samuel.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

PG-It's the livestock industry that is jumping on this. The G,F&P have "poo-pooed" the fact that an abnormal number of deer have been dying off. They "claim" that there have only been 20 or so deer "known" to have died from this. They aren't talking about our 20, since they wouldn't come when mom started calling them, months ago.

Once-No, but I sure as heck come in and strip and shake everything out and wash my hands and arms really well after finding ticks on stuff. I've found a few crawling on me...which makes me want to shower immediately-Yucky things.

Horse Crazed...aaahhh, the lovely Pine Beetle. That sucker has destroyed pine forests across the continent. Government programs are such a joke. I've yet to see one that is proactive, rather than reactive...if they ever react at all. I'll stop there or else I will end up going off on a tangent that would highly offend a lot of people.;)

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Sunny-it seems pretty specific to this area at the moment. It's got a lot of people confused because the ticks are popping up in random spots. Our river ranch is just 18 miles north of my mom's ranch and we have not had ticks on those horses. The deer look healthy there too.
Thank you for the link to the news story...I didn't even think to add that.

Anon-Thanks for that info as well. I suspect it is the same thing or similar to what is happening with the moose.

kdwhorses said...

Good grief that is crazy! Hope they find out what is causing it. Sorry for your losses. Keep us posted!

Unknown said...

Wow that's scary - we depend on our harsh winters to kill off most of the ticks too!

I HATE ticks - that is gonna give me the creepy crawlies all day.

Sending your link on!

cdncowgirl said...

OMG. I hope they figure out what it is, how it spreads and what it will effect. Stuff like that is just scary.

Carroll Farm said...

As i read this, i started itching, it is like hearing about head lice - your head itches... hopefully it is solved soon. our issue here is fox rabies - 2 horses w/in a mile of so of Mikey and I have lost horses too it - and bobcat attacks all over the place!

Andrea said...

Wow, that is scary!! Our horses get ticks here in their ears. Those are so hard to get out. I hope they find out what is killing those calves. That can be costly for the ranchers.

Melanie said...

Glad to see that you had a great Easter and are back!!!

About those deer and livestock...wowza!!!! A lot of the deer around here were killed off by that chronic wasting disease, and we are now supposed to report to the Game Dept. when we see one with it.

I saw a show on Animal Planet about ticks that are killing moose somewhere...can't remember where though. They are dropping like flies, and they find that they are covered in ticks. I hope they find out what is wreaking havoc soon!! like those 1/2 Arabs now, do ya'??? LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

This is horrible! I hope that something can be done soon for the deer and the cows, as well as the poor ponies who must suffer with this.

City girl turned Country Girl said...

First off, Love the new picture and background.

Wow what an interestingly scary story!! That is amazing the amounts of deer you have found dead. It really stinks that they didn't listen to you guys sooner!!! Good job staying proactive with your animals though!!

Unknown said...

I have found winter ticks on my horses he last 3 years. Not so much this year, but others have. They are very light colored - almost grayish white. I recall the first time I found one, my friend didn't believe me - ticks don't survive in the winter in Nebraska, she said. Then the next year, she found some on her horse. I wrote it off as a nuisance. But now it is very scary.

gtyyup said...

Luckily we don't seem to have the dieing problem out here...just the normal spring tick rush...hate them buggers.

So, what do you use to help fight off the ticks on your horses?

Every topical product I've ever tried was pretty much useless on the large scale like we have here with hundreds of ticks.

This year, I'm trying the Bug Off Garlic by Springtime Inc. So far it seems to be helping a little, but I've just now started doubling the dose, so I'm hoping that will help more. One of my mustangs has always had more ticks than the other horses...I always tell him that it's just because he's so sweet...but I feel so sorry for them all.

Look forward to hearing anyone's comments on tick control.