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Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs

Tick-borne diseases pose a real threat to the health of dogs and people throughout Rock Springs. Symptoms of these conditions can be painful and even life-threatening for your pup. Our vets explain some of the most common tick-borne illnesses in dogs, and the symptoms to watch for.

Tick-Borne Illness in Dogs

Tick-borne diseases affect thousands of dogs in the United States each year, and they can cause serious and painful symptoms in your pet. Some of the conditions transmitted by ticks can be fatal to dogs.

How Tick-Borne Diseases Attack Your Dog’s Immune System

Ticks can transmit a single organism or multiple organisms to your dog through a single bite (coinfection), allowing different organisms to collaborate to release toxins and activate your dog's immune system. Once these organisms have entered your dog, they infiltrate its cells and hijack its immune system. Some tick-borne organisms can even help each other survive inside your pet's body, leading to recurring or chronic infections.

Illnesses spread by ticks result in your dog's organs and tissues becoming infected and inflamed, producing a myriad of symptoms. In some cases, symptoms may not appear until several weeks after your pet has become infected with the disease.

Common Tick-Borne Diseases Seen in Dogs

Tick-borne illnesses are common in dogs across North America. In some cases, these diseases are transmitted by ticks that dogs encounter near their homes; in others, the pet contracted the disease while away from home (often on out-of-state camping trips with pet parents). The following are some of the most prevalent tick-borne diseases in dogs in the Rock Springs area.

Lyme Disease

  • Lyme disease, caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and transmitted by infected black-legged ticks or deer ticks, is seen in dogs and people across North America. Lyme disease symptoms in dogs can include lethargy, lameness, fever, joint pain or swelling, and lymph node enlargement. Lyme disease in dogs can be treated successfully.

Canine Bartonellosis

  • Although Canine Bartonellosis is less common than some other tick-borne diseases we see in dogs, the symptoms of this disease can be very serious. Some of the earliest signs of Canine Bartonellosis include intermittent fever and lameness but left untreated this condition can lead to serious conditions such as heart or liver disease.

Rickettsial Diseases

Rickettsial organisms are bacterial intracellular parasites transmitted by infected ticks. Rickettsial bacteria cause a variety of illnesses in dogs, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Canine Anaplasmosis. Bacterial diseases, including those listed below, can be difficult to identify. A definitive diagnosis of your dog's symptoms may require multiple tests or rounds of treatment.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or RMSF, is transmitted by the Rocky Mountain wood tick, brown deer tick, and American dog ticks. This tick-borne disease is found in dogs across Central, South, and North America, and it can also infect humans. The most common symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs are swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, loss of appetite, and fever. Dogs may also exhibit neurological symptoms such as balance issues or weakness in some cases.

Canine Ehrlichiosis

  • Canine Ehrlichiosis can be transmitted by a variety of ticks, including the American dog tick, brown dog tick, and lone star tick. Symptoms of this condition may include fever, poor appetite, nose bleeds, and bruising. The keys to successful Canine Ehrlichiosis treatment are early diagnosis and treatment. Treatment can be more difficult in dogs who develop chronic disease symptoms.

Canine Anaplasmosis

  • The most common symptoms of Canine Anaplasmosis are much the same as other tick-borne diseases and include lethargy, loss of appetite, stiff joints, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, however, Canine Anaplasmosis can lead to seizures in dogs.

Protozoal Diseases

Protozoal intracellular parasites are also transmitted by ticks. These organisms live in the dog's red blood cells and are responsible for the Protozoal diseases listed below.

Canine Babesiosis

  • Canine Babesiosis is most commonly transmitted through the bite of infected brown or American dog ticks. This condition, however, can spread through an infected dog's bite, contaminated IV blood, or transplacental transmission from a pregnant mother to her unborn puppies. Canine Babesiosis causes red blood cell breakdown, resulting in jaundice, pale gums, lethargy, dark urine, and, in some cases, generalized weakness and vomiting.

Canine Hepatozoonosis

  • Canine Hepatozoonosis is a tick-borne disease, but your pet may contract it by eating an infected animal like a rodent or bird. Dogs infected with this disease frequently exhibit mild symptoms or none at all. However, depending on the strain of the disease, more severe cases can cause symptoms that can significantly impair your pet's mobility, such as muscle, bone, and/or joint pain. Additional symptoms of Canine Hepatozoonosis include fever, pale gums and skin, and enlarged lymph nodes.

Treatment for Tick-Borne Disease in Dogs

Tick-borne illnesses in dogs are typically treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics. While your dog is receiving antibiotics, your vet may advise you to give him probiotics to prevent gastrointestinal problems.

Recurring tick-borne conditions can be challenging to beat. Even after your dog appears to have recovered, regular blood work may be necessary in order to detect recurrences as early as possible.

Protecting Your Dog Against Tick-Borne Diseases

Year-round tick prevention medications are the most effective defense against tick-borne diseases in dogs. Speak with your veterinarian to determine which parasite prevention medication is best for your pet based on where you live, their age, and their lifestyle. While these medications can help protect your dog, no tick prevention method is completely effective, so caution is always advised.

If your dog has been in areas where ticks are known to live, such as farmland, forests, or tall grass, inspect his skin for ticks as soon as you return home. Most ticks are dark brown or black in color and fairly large once they start feeding. An online search should help you learn about the appearance of ticks in your area and where they are most commonly found.

Ticks must be carefully removed to protect your puppy's health. Contact your veterinarian to learn how to properly remove ticks from your dog's skin.

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.

If your dog is showing severe symptoms of a tick-borne disease it's essential to seek veterinary care. Visit our Rock Springs vets at Mountainaire Animal Clinic.

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