Joe Sosik’s dog Troy was a happy, vigorous 5-year-old black lab who loved to run in the woods, but Sosik says a tick-borne disease cut his life short.
"He was a strong dog," Sosik said. "It was sad to seem him go down like that. He went down very quick."
Now Sosik wants to make pet owners aware of the potential danger of tick diseases.
"It’s Russian roulette when you take your dog out into the woods," he said. "The public should be aware of it and be vigilant."
Sosik lives on Donnell Avenue in Havelock, but would take Troy down a forest road at the edge of the Croatan National Forest across from Railroad Street two of three times a week.
"I stayed on the road but he would like to go inside the brush and sniff around," Sosik said. "Had I known that that kind of tick was out there, I would have been much more vigilant about checking him when he came out of the woods."
Within a day, Sosik noticed that his dog was doing a lot of coughing.
"He had something on his back leg and the vet said he was bitten," Sosik said.
Sosik said blood tests had confirmed that the dog had Ehrlichia, a type of blood parasite that infects the white blood cells of the animal, though the dog’s exact cause of death is not possible without a necropsy.
"He couldn’t use that leg and then the following day he started coughing up blood. It must have been a gallon of blood," Sosik said. "I took him back for stronger medication, and he did that for two days and then he couldn’t take the medication.
"He got shortness of breath, and the vet said his lungs were getting filled up with mucous and blood. He could hardly breathe and wouldn’t move and I brought him down and had him euthanized."
Sosik said he never thought the joyful trips into the woods could kill his dog.
"When you take them into the woods you don’t think that the ticks could be carrying something deadly like a mosquito," he said. "I found ticks on him all the time, but I didn’t think the ticks could kill him. I didn’t think that there were ticks out here that would make him that ill."
Sosik said he did take what he thought were preventative measures.
"Most of the times I’d spray Off on him," he said. "Check for ticks and fleas, comb them every time they come in and out of the woods."
Sosik said he just wants others to be aware of the potential dangers to their pets.
"People need to know to be vigilant with the ticks and their dogs," he said. "I knew there were poisonous snakes and poisonous spiders out here, but I didn’t know that there were poisonous ticks. The scary thing about it is he went down in a week. It wasn’t this long drawn out months-long thing."
According to the website for the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, thousands of dogs in the country are affected each year by dangerous tick borne diseases. The website lists a report from Veterinary Week of a 30 percent increase in the rate of dogs exposed to tick-transmitted diseases between 2006 and 2010.
According to the website, early diagnosis and treatment is the key. Tick collars can help some in prevention, but aren’t 100 percent effective. Dogs who frequent wooded areas are particularly vulnerable to ticks. Dogs should be checked for ticks daily, according to the website.
For a full list of tick borne diseases and suggestions for treatment go to www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/canine-tick-borne-disease.html.