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Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Did you know ticks can carry several diseases that can infect your beloved pet? These diseases can cause serious illness or even death. In this post, our veterinarians in Lincoln will discuss tick-borne diseases in dogs, including their symptoms and options for prevention and treatment.

What are tick-borne diseases in dogs?

Ticks are tiny parasites that live inside cells and feed on the blood of their hosts. They can also transmit dangerous bacteria to dogs, which can cause various illnesses. These illnesses can be severe and even fatal if not treated promptly by a qualified veterinarian.

It's crucial to prevent tick-borne diseases and seek veterinary attention if your dog shows any symptoms of illness. Although some of the bacteria that ticks carry can infect humans, it's important to note that direct transmission from dogs to humans is not possible.

Ticks are essential for spreading these diseases since the bacteria live inside them and need them to complete their life cycle. Therefore, a tick bite is necessary to transmit the disease. Here are some of the most common tick-borne illnesses that affect dogs in the United States:

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is a rapidly growing global issue caused by the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is transmitted by black-legged ticks or deer ticks, which must feed on a host for 24 to 48 hours before infecting them.

The symptoms of this illness can range from joint pain or swelling, limping, and enlarged lymph nodes to lethargy, lameness, and fever. If left untreated, these symptoms can progress to kidney failure, which may be fatal, as well as serious cardiac and neurological effects.

Canine Bartonellosis

Canine bartonellosis is a less common blood-borne disease that dogs can get from the brown dog tick. This disease can cause various symptoms such as fever, lameness, altered brain function, seizures, loss of appetite, and irregular heartbeat. It is important to note that people can also get infected with this condition.

Rickettsial Diseases

Rickettsia is a type of bacteria that can cause a variety of tick-borne diseases in dogs, such as ehrlichiosis, canine anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These bacteria are small and live inside the cells of their host. However, diagnosing these diseases can be challenging, and your veterinarian may need to perform multiple rounds of treatment and testing to make a definitive diagnosis, especially if your dog has a severe case.

Canine Anaplasmosis

The deer tick causes deer tick fever or dog fever. When an individual is infected, they may experience symptoms similar to those of other tick-borne diseases. These symptoms include lethargy, fever, stiff joints, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, seizures may also occur.

Canine Ehrlichiosis

The brown dog tick, lone star tick, and American dog tick are among the ticks that can carry and transmit canine ehrlichiosis, a disease that is found throughout the world. S

Symptoms of the disease usually start to appear between 1 to 3 weeks after an infected tick bites a dog.

Look out for signs such as fever, bruising or nose bleeds, and poor appetite. Testing may reveal low blood platelets, which are cells that help with blood clotting.

Although canine ehrlichiosis can be treated, it may be more difficult for your dog to recover if chronic symptoms develop.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

The Rocky Mountain wood tick, American dog tick, and brown deer tick carry RMSF, one of the more commonly recognized tick-borne diseases found throughout North, South, and Central America. Both dogs and people can be infected.

Symptoms may include swollen lymph nodes, low platelet levels, fever, poor appetite and joint pain. Some dogs may experience neurological challenges, including weak limbs or wobbly stature.

With both canine ehrlichiosis and RMSF, bacteria can be transmitted within 3 to 6 hours of a tick attaching to your dog.

Protozoal Diseases

A protozoal intracellular parasite that resides in your dog’s red blood cells can cause these diseases, which include:

Canine Babesiosis

While tick bites (from the brown dog tick and/or American dog tick) are the most common causes for this disease, it can also be transmitted by transplacental transmission and contamination of IV blood.

Red blood cells can break down, leading to symptoms such as jaundice (orange or yellow-colored skin or whites of eyes), dark-colored urine, pale gums and lethargy. Other symptoms may include vomiting and weakness.

Canine Hepatozoonosis

If your dog ingests protozoa by eating infected animals such as rodents or birds, he or she can contract this tick-borne disease, which distinguishes it from other tick-borne illnesses.

What other symptoms should I look for?

Hallmark signs of tick-borne diseases in dogs include vomiting, fever, swelling around joints, lameness, and lethargy. Other symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Swelling in limbs
  • Seizures
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Skin lesions
  • Discharge from nose or eyes
  • Weight loss

How are tick-borne illnesses in dogs treated?

Early detection and effective treatment are crucial in the case of tick-borne illnesses. During the early stages of the disease, your vet may prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics. Still, it's important to be aware that these antibiotics will also kill beneficial bacteria along with the harmful ones.

Your vet may also prescribe probiotics to avoid gastrointestinal problems. Always follow your vet's recommended treatment plan.

Tick-borne diseases can be challenging to control and eliminate, especially if they recur. Even if your dog recovers, they will still require regular blood work to detect any signs of recurrence. Be sure to ask your vet for advice on how you can help prevent ticks.

How can I prevent my dog from contracting a tick-borne disease?

It is important to prioritize prevention when it comes to tick-borne illnesses. At Critter Creek Veterinary Hospital, we offer a wide range of products to help protect your pet from ticks and other parasites.

However, it is important to note that no method is 100% effective, so it's important to consider the environment where you plan to take your dog and apply tick control treatments beforehand.

After any outings, be sure to check your dog and yourself for ticks to prevent any potential infection. It's also a good idea to check your dog periodically throughout the tick season, which lasts from spring to fall and is a year-round issue in warmer climates.

Ticks are typically dark brown or black in color and can transmit diseases within 3 to 6 hours of biting your pup. If you find a tick, removing it as quickly as possible is important to prevent any potential infection.

You may want to consider bringing your dog to our animal hospital, where a vet can safely remove the tick.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog is suffering from a tick-borne disease? Staff at Critter Creek Veterinary Hospital are equipped to diagnose and treat many illnesses and conditions. Book an appointment today. 

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Critter Creek Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of pets in Lincoln and the Greater Sacramento Area. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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