Tick-Borne Disease In Dogs

Tick-Borne Disease in Dogs

What Is Tick-Borne Disease In Dogs?

Pets and their caregivers often grapple with the challenge of tick invasions. As external parasites, ticks latch onto their host's exterior. Various tick species, prevalent in many regions of the U.S., find dogs as suitable hosts and are active at varying times annually.

To thrive, ticks latch onto and feed on the blood of their hosts. These pests can harbor bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. They might transfer these pathogens to pets when they bite, leading to various medical conditions. Symptoms of these diseases often include fever, aching joints, fatigue, and anomalies in blood tests. While ticks primarily thrive in forested and grass-covered locales, they aren't strangers to household environments.

In the U.S., most ticks belong to the hard tick category. The Companion Animal Parasite Council sheds light on the nationwide spread of ticks and the associated health risks they bring.

The following list includes some common ticks

  • Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum)
  • Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum)
  • American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
  • Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni)
  • Eastern black-legged (deer) tick (Ixodes scapularis)
  • Western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus)
  • Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

Most Common Types of Tick-Borne Disease:

Lyme Disease

Originator: The bacteria known as Borrellia burgdorferi, classified as Spirochete.

Mainly spread by: Bites from Ixodes ticks.

Typical symptoms: Fever, listlessness, reduced appetite, limping, potential kidney issues.


Originator: Bacteria called Ehrlichia ewingii and E. canis, which reside within cells.

Mainly spread by: Bites from Lone Star and brown dog ticks.

Typical symptoms: Fever, sluggishness, reduced hunger, bleeding, lameness.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Originator: The Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria that live inside cells.

Mainly spread by: Bites from Dermacentor, Amblyomma, and Rhipicephalus ticks.

Typical symptoms: Fatigue, fever, weight reduction, unusual bleeding patterns.


Originator: The Babesia species, known as Hemoprotozoans.

Mainly spread by: Bites from Rhipicephalus, Ixodes, and Dermacentor ticks.

Typical symptoms: High temperature, frailty, bleeding complications.


Originator: Bacteria from the Bartonella species.

Mainly spread by: While certain Bartonella species are transmitted via ticks, others are through fleas.

Typical symptoms: Fever, weight decline, reduced appetite, cough, limpness, fatigue.


Originator: Protozoans called Hepatozoon americanum and H. canis.

Mainly spread by: Ingesting brown dog ticks.

Typical symptoms: Fever, lack of hunger, fatigue, dryness.


Originator: The bacteria named Francisella tularensis.

Mainly spread by: Bites from Dermacentor and Amblyomma ticks.

Typical symptoms: Enlarged lymph nodes, fever, reduced appetite, ocular issues, abscess formations.

Tick Paralysis

Originator: A neurotoxic substance present in tick saliva.

Mainly spread by: Bites from Dermacentor and Ixodes ticks.

Typical symptoms: Swiftly developing paralysis from the hind legs and extending to all limbs, respiratory challenges.


Originator: Bacteria living within cells, called Anaplasma phagocytophilum.

Mainly spread by: Bites from Ixodes ticks.

Typical symptoms: Sluggishness, loss of hunger, high temperature, dryness.

Symptoms Of Tick-Borne Diseases In Dogs

Numerous dogs infected with tick-related diseases don't show any symptoms. However, frequently observed rather generic indicators encompass:

  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Bruising
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful or swollen joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes

If these ailments are not addressed, they can severely affect the dog's kidneys, neurological system, immunity, circulatory system, and heart. Many diseases transmitted by ticks primarily interfere with the blood, resulting in excessive bleeding and hindering the blood's clotting capability. Such complications from ticks can be life-threatening.

Causes Of Tick-Borne Diseases In Dogs

Diseases carried by ticks are conveyed when they bite, but it's crucial to understand that ticks usually aren't the direct originators of these diseases. Instead, at various stages in their life, ticks acquire infections from bacteria and protozoa. When they bite dogs, they then pass on these ailments. However, tick paralysis is an anomaly resulting from toxins in tick saliva.

Diagnoses Of Tick-Borne Diseases In Dogs

Based on a pet's history, symptoms, and potential or known exposure to ticks, veterinarians might deduce the possibility of a tick-borne disease.

While there's a range of diagnostic tools for such diseases, a popular starting point for veterinarians is a multi-species diagnostic known as the SNAP 4Dx test. Although other tests have similar functions, the SNAP 4Dx test is frequently utilized in clinics, requiring just a tiny amount of blood. It delivers results in roughly 10 minutes, quickly initiating necessary treatments. This test identifies three prevalent tick-related diseases: Lyme, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis, in addition to heartworm disease.

For animals with potential or confirmed tick-borne diseases, veterinarians typically conduct a blood chemistry profile, a full blood count, and a urinalysis. This aids in assessing the disease's intensity and its implications on the pet's organs and metabolic functions.

Treatment Of Tick-Borne Diseases In Dogs

Typically, the remedy for diseases carried by ticks involves a regimen of antibiotics lasting 10 to 28 days. Commonly prescribed antibiotics include doxycycline, enrofloxacin, clindamycin, azithromycin, or imidocarb. The nature of the disease determines the specific dose and treatment duration.

Additional treatments and supportive care might be necessary depending on the observed symptoms, such as anti-inflammatory and pain relief drugs, IV fluids, and sometimes blood transfusions.

For dogs presenting with immune-related issues, administering steroids and drugs to suppress the immune response might be needed. If a dog's kidney failure is linked to a tick-borne disease, they might initially need rigorous treatment, followed by sustained diet and daily routine changes.

Recovery Of Tick-Borne Diseases In Dogs

Milder instances of diseases carried by ticks might only necessitate a single round of antibiotics.

The approach can differ for acute cases based on the symptoms, and such diseases can sometimes result in enduring complications. Some dogs get diagnosed during regular check-ups even without showing symptoms of tick-related diseases.

The majority of tick-related disease cases have favorable outcomes. That said, conditions like Lyme nephritis present more unpredictable results.

Protecting Dogs From Tick-Related Diseases 

The most effective method to safeguard dogs from tick-induced diseases is to steer clear of ticks and places where they thrive. Consistently ensuring your dog is protected against ticks and fleas throughout the year is also vital. Preventative measures against ticks can be administered orallytopically, or via collars, employing repellents, pesticides, and growth restrictors.

In tick-heavy regions, environmental treatment becomes paramount. Ticks might inhabit homes, gardens, or kennels, and applying pesticides might become necessary. For dogs that are frequently outdoors, completely avoiding ticks is almost impossible. For such dogs, tick-repellent products are often recommended. Regularly checking and grooming dogs after outdoor activities can help identify and remove ticks before they latch on.

It's worth noting that certain diseases can affect both animals and humans, termed as zoonotic. While the primary transmission mode of most tick-related conditions is through tick bites, humans usually don't contract the disease directly from their pets. However, pets can inadvertently introduce ticks to the home, which could potentially bite and infect humans.

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