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What are Tick-Borne Diseases?

Although it is impossible to know if a tick is carrying the disease, just one bite from them can infect your dog. The worry is that the disease symptoms are so vague and owners may not realise until too late that their pet has been infected.

Diseases from ticks are known as zoonotic, which means that you (as a human) can get infected too if the tick latches onto you. If your dog is found to have a tick, it is vital to check your family and yourself to ensure there no other ticks around.

Ticks bring with them the possibility of several serious diseases for your dog which includes Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

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Symptoms of Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs

There are many combinations of symptoms of tick-borne disease depending on the disease carried by the tick including:

  • Blood clotting issues and abnormal white blood counts 
  • Loss of interest in food
  • Weight loss 
  • Changes in the gum color within your dog’s mouth
  • Discharge coming from the eyes or nose areas 
  • Vomiting of bile 
  • Pain in the neck or back – tender to touch 
  • Neurological symptoms such as seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Uncontrolled urination
  • Enlarged spleen or lymph nodes 
  • Swelling of limbs or joints 
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness 

Types 

  • Lyme disease

    is a bacterial infection that can affect dogs and humans and is transmitted by deer ticks and western blacklegged ticks

  • Ehrlichiosis

    is a blood infection that is transmitted by the brown dog tick; symptoms are slow to become apparent only showing until months after the first bite

  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever

    symptoms include fever, a stiff awkward gait, and neurological problems such as the development of seizures 

  • Anaplasmosis

    is a blood cell infection transmitted by deer ticks and western blacklegged ticks; it shows symptoms similar to Lyme disease but also includes vomiting, diarrhea and the development of seizures

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Causes of Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs

  • Tick bite symptoms show a small lump, redness of the skin and swelling of joints if your dog has been bitten on a limb
  • Ticks carry more than one of these diseases so your dog can have with multiple infections
  • Sometimes the tick will detach and fall off after a feed, but attached ticks need careful removal so that their head and mouth parts are not left in the skin 
  • Stage one of a tick disease occurs within the first to fourth week after being bitten
  • Your dog feels unwell, has no appetite, and may develop diarrhea and lameness
  • Your dog is tender to touch
  • Bloodwork shows a decreased blood count, increased white count and high liver enzymes 
  • Sub- acute stage is a slightly inactive phase of the parasite, and your dog’s symptoms may appear near normal, but undue stress can disrupt the parasite pushing into the next stage 

  • The chronic state is an attack phase by the parasite impacting upon your dog’s immune syste
  • Due to the parasite having lived in one or more of the organs, it becomes difficult to treat
  • Sadly, treatment can be ineffective, and death is imminent
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Diagnosis of Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs

Prevention is the best management to avoid these nasty parasites. Their bites may respond to treatment but leave adverse effects on your dog’s health for many years to come. If you live in an area where ticks are known, checking your dog thoroughly after walks especially if you have visited heavy, busy areas and long grass, is advisable. (Also check yourself as humans are susceptible to tick bites too.) If your pet is off his food, feeling tender to touch (yelping when you pet him) or is showing any other symptoms, transport your dog to the veterinarian clinic for a full check-up. 

Some symptoms of tick disease can mimic other diseases, so it is best to find out in the early stages what the cause of your pet’s discomfort is. Your veterinarian will do a full physical check of the body, especially in areas where your dog’s hair is not so thick to see if there are any bite signs or ticks still attached. He will be able to show you the correct way to remove ticks. Blood tests will be done to determine what the disease is. Often your dog may have more than one tick-transmitted disease which often causes more severe symptoms. Your dog may need blood transfusions or intravenous fluids especially for Ehrlichiosis.

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Treatment of Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs

The drug chosen for treatment will depend on the specific disease that the tick has infected your dog with. Doxycycline is the most popular and effective for the three most common diseases (Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease.) The dose is determined via body weight, and the dosage will need to be administered twice a day for six weeks or longer. All tick-borne diseases in dogs are administered treatment in the form of a broad spectrum antibiotic therapy. Ideally, the best results come from treating when the disease is in its early phases. 

Screening for tick-borne diseases should become a natural part of your dog’s annual check-up. The prognosis for treatment during the acute phase is good if your dog gets immediate treatment. German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers tend to have a more severe chronic form of the Ehrlichiosis disease, and the prognosis here is quite poor. Depending on the time that has passed since your dog was first infected, the treatment and recovery time can vary considerably. Your dog will require home care and plenty of rest to allow treatment to work effectively.

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Recovery of Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs

There is a vaccination for Lyme disease, although it is not considered as suitable for all dogs. It will be recommended on a case by case basis; your veterinarian may suggest that you get your dog vaccinated. A tick preventative product prescribed by your veterinarian will help prevent tick attacks. Getting into the habit of checking your dog each evening for ticks is another great management tool. If you find an embedded tick, careful removal and disposal are advised.

Being proactive in protecting your dog against ticks, you will be able to enjoy walks and exploring safely. If your pet is on a veterinarian prescribed treatment for tick-borne diseases, home care will help him to recover. Plenty of rest on a comfortable soft bed, easy to digest food to tempt his appetite and fresh water will all aid in his recovery.

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Tick-Borne Diseases Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Polka

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Poodle

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6 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptome

I've just removed a tick from my poodle for the first time. I'm from Vermont. The tick bite my dog and was like 1/4 under it's skin. It took me 15 minutes to remove the tick carefully and I'm pretty sure I removed 99% of the tick. I'm also pretty sure that my dog caught the tick last night (12 hours ago). Should I go to the veterinary? Is there antibiotics to "prevent" from any eventual deseases from that bite or should I wait for any symptoms?

May 17, 2018

Polka's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is very important to remove 100% of the tick as any mouthparts broken off and left in the skin may cause some severe reactions and problems later on regardless of tick borne diseases; there is a certain way to remove ticks (you can buy a cheap plastic tool for it) so that they detach in full, if you believe any part may be still in the skin you should visit your Veterinarian. You should also speak with your Veterinarian about tick borne diseases in your area and about the use of topical spot on prevention products. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 18, 2018

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Bella

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Dachshund

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Hair Loss
Scabs
Cough
Open Wounds
Normal Appeti
Some Weight Loss
Loose Walk

Last summer I went to visit family family in New Hampshire. We went to their lake house in Laconia. I brought my miniature dachshund Bella with me. When returning to Delaware, I noticed she had a bunch of ticks on her belly. I removed them all. The area where the ticks were, were red. About 3 weeks ago, Bella has developed hair loss, and scab like lesions on her back and ears. I have been treating her with antibacterial and antifungal shampoo, along with a medicine called Happy Jack, which is for mange. Could she be suffering from a tick borne disease instead and not A skin infection?

May 16, 2018

Bella's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Tick borne diseases are always a concern, but the time frame is a long time; without examining Bella I couldn’t start to say what the cause is. You should certainly visit your Veterinarian for a thorough examination to determine the underlying cause so that the right treatment may be given. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 17, 2018

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Molly

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Cocker Spaniel

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2 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Blood In Urine
Fever
Lethargy
Vomiting

My 2 year old cocker spaniel, Molly, became very ill suddenly on Monday evening. She was lethargic, vomiting, had a fever, and blood in urine. Tuesday, Vet said she tested positive for tick borne and that her RBCs were low. Could be the tick borne or poison or autoimmune. I am sure it is tick related as she had a tick recently. Gave her fluids, doxy, vitamin k, and prednisone. She had not improved and today she is staying overnight to get a transfusion. I understand the issue with the RBCs and the need for the transfusion, just looking for reassurance this will work.

April 5, 2018

Molly's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without knowing more about Molly and her situation, it is impossible for me to advise as to what might be going on with her. Tick borne diseases, IMHA, and Vit K antagonists look very similar, and we often treat for all of these things if any of them are a possibiliy. Time will tell how she is goign to respond, and you shoudl trust your veteirnarian, as they do seem to be covering all of the possible diagnoses.

April 5, 2018

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Beezus

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German Shepherd

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Poor Appetite
Panting
Horner'S Syndrome

My dog received a dental about 3 weeks ago w anesthesia. chem 6 pre blood was normal. A day after the dental she became lethargic and spiked a fever of 105. was treated with a steroid and was tested for Addisons which came up negative. After improved status for one day, her condition declined again and she became lethargic and stopped eating. On her second visit to the vet, a low Albumin (1.7) was discovered and an elevated WBC. They also ran a Tick panel which came up negative. Her platelets became low, I think in the 40-50 thousand range. She presented signs of Horner's syndrome around the eye and also began limping from her right hind leg (disclosure- she had double hip replacement as a young dog but had not shown any lameness to date in the three years post op). X rays showed good implants on the hips and no sign of issues from the surgery site. GI Panel showed low Cobalamin and folate and a Cobalamin injection was given and I order 400 mcg Folic acid to supplement. She stayed in the hospital for 2 days and was Prescribed Pred (30mg daily for 5 days and then 20mg daily for 5 days) and Doxycycline 150mg twice daily. she ate well for the next 8 days but upon recheck, had lost about 2 lbs since her discharge. Follow up bloodworm showed improved Albumin (2.2), high WBC (26,000), and elevated ALT (1400). Platelets were in normal range (I believe the upper 200 thousands). She was prescribed Denamarin to help her elevated ALT. Upon an additional consultation with an internal specialist, we've been asked to discontinue doxy (she received it for about 12 days), lower the pred to 10mg daily, and continue the Denamarin. Beezus has not had an appetite for about 24 hours, still shows some signs of Horners, is becoming more lethargic, is panting somewhat more than she was at the higher pred dose, and has a fever of 103. While lethargic, she doesn't seem to be particularly lame on any limb anymore. Could she be suffering from a Tick borne disease even though the test was negative and would it be worth it to recheck the tick panel at some point?

March 23, 2018

Beezus' Owner

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3320 Recommendations

You should follow the instructions of the Internal Medicine Specialist to see if there are any changes after discontinuing prednisone and doxycycline and keeping the Denamarin (silybin and SAMe). Whilst it is unlikely that there is a tick borne disease, retesting wouldn’t hurt and would put your mind at rest regarding that possibility. It is a case of monitoring Beezus now during the weekend to see if there are any changes which may help point to a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 23, 2018

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Maggie

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Scottish Terrier

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Withdrawn
Normal Eating

10 year old Scottish terrier, first had signs of diarrhea, and lethargic for three days. Took her to vet, blood test shows low WBC count, chem panel came back normal, but urine shows protein loss with upc ratio of 1.5. Ultrasound shows enlarged liver, and intestinal thickening Vet wants to do blood work to test for tick borne disease and start on doxycycline. Does this sound like Tick borne disease or.. something else? Need second opinion, but vet bills are stacking up.

Feb. 21, 2018

Maggie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Those can be signs of tick borne diseases, yes. Tick borne diseases in dogs can be quite insidious, but, thankfully, typically easily treated. it would be best to trust your veterinarian, and follow through with necessary testing and treatment. I hope that all goes well with Maggie and she recovers well!

Feb. 21, 2018

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Shaddy

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Blindness
Bleeding From Nose
Spine Swolen

I leaft my dog fr a week in a kenal. When i came back to get her,she was full of ticks on her body. I took her to Dr. He treated her fr ticks. But after 20 days she loose her intrst in food,she started sneezing blood from her nose,she started crying in pain. So i took her to the hospital,Dr did a blood test & found her HB was 4%,she needed a blood trnsfusn. & detected by tick borne. As per dr she is suffring from internal bleeding,so the blood clot inside her eyes,& she cant see any thing.. Dr prescribed Doxypet200 & many other medcns.its been 14 days of her treatmnt,but still she is not able to see. Plz help me out with ur sugstions.. m desprate to see my kid health & fit again.. Thanku

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