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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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Atlaya

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German Shepherd

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7 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

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Symptom Free

Hello, I have a 7 mos old GSD. We live in central Ohio, but travel several times a year throughout the country, hiking and backpacking. We have used the K9 Advanix II for flea/tick control, it seems to be successfully controlling parasite issues. However, I do still have concerns regarding tick bites and disease transmission. Even treated she may still receive tick bites, how long must a tick feed in order to transmit tick borne illnesses? And are there any topical sprays that can be safely applied to my dog's body prior to going hiking that will help repel ticks prior to them attempting to bite/feed?

Jan. 21, 2018

Atlaya's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. Tick prevention for pets tends to work quite effectively when used regularly for fleas and ticks. The time that a tick needs to be feeding to transmit disease is typically between 24-36 hours, and most tick prevention kills ticks within 24 hours. Depending on whether Atlaya spends a lot of time in the water, you might want to consider an oral flea and tick medication that can be prescribed by your veterinarian to make sure that the water isn't affecting the capabilities of the drug. It is also always smart to regularly check her for ticks and remove them if you find them.

Jan. 21, 2018

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Spunky

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Jack Russell Terrier

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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My Jack Russel was diagnosed with tick fever on 03.01.18 he's been on 50mg doxycycline daily for 21days . He's eating a bit not like before and still seems weak.how long does it take for the meds to start working? And is that dosage correct he's about 17-20lbs and 8years old

Jan. 19, 2018

Spunky's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. That is a fairly standard dosage for tick borne diseases, given once or twice daily. I'm not sure if there were results from any blood work done, but if he was anemic or had low platelets in addition to the fever, that can take some time to build his energy levels back up. It might be a good idea to have a followup appointment with your veterinarian, since it has been 16 days and he isn't markedly improved, to see if he needs a different medication, further testing, or his signs are pointing towards something else. Without seeing him, I would have expected him to be quite a bit better, but your veterinarian will be able to look at him, assess his health, and recommend any further treatments if they are concerned. I hope that everything goes well for Spunky.

Jan. 19, 2018

I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2004. I was given antibiotics, which seemed to help. However, I still suffer from some of the symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, joint pain, and even neurological problems in controlling hand and leg movements. The inability to walk right etc, are temporary and generally happen when I am really tired and have been working hard. I lost touch with reality. Suspecting it was the medication I Went off the antibiotics (with the doctor’s knowledge) and started on Lyme disease natural herbal formula I ordered from GREEN HOUSE HERBAL CLINIC, I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave a positive response, my symptoms totally declined over a 6 weeks use of the Green House Lyme disease natural herbal formula. I’m 70 now and doing very well, the disease is totally reversed! (Visit their website www . Greenhouseherbalclinic . com) I am thankful to nature, herbs are truly gift from God. I can now go about my daily activities and the pain is greatly diminished. Don't give up hope, fellow sufferers. Share with friends!!

March 23, 2018

Joan D.


I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2004. I was given antibiotics, which seemed to help. However, I still suffer from some of the symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, joint pain, and even neurological problems in controlling hand and leg movements. The inability to walk right etc, are temporary and generally happen when I am really tired and have been working hard. I lost touch with reality. Suspecting it was the medication I Went off the antibiotics (with the doctor’s knowledge) and started on Lyme disease natural herbal formula I ordered from GREEN HOUSE HERBAL CLINIC, I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave a positive response, my symptoms totally declined over a 6 weeks use of the Green House Lyme disease natural herbal formula. I’m 70 now and doing very well, the disease is totally reversed! (Visit their website www . Greenhouseherbalclinic . com) I am thankful to nature, herbs are truly gift from God. I can now go about my daily activities and the pain is greatly diminished. Don't give up hope, fellow sufferers. Share with friends!!

March 23, 2018

Joan D.

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