Tick-borne diseases pose a very real threat to the health of dogs and people throughout Corpus Christi. Symptoms of these conditions can be painful and even life-threatening for your pup. In today's blog, 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 can cause serious and painful symptoms in your pet. Some of the diseases spread 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 via a single bite (coinfection), allowing different organisms to collaborate to release toxins and activate your dog's immune system. Once inside your dog, these organisms invade their cells and hijack their immune system. Some tick-borne organisms can even help each other survive inside your pet's body, which can lead 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 diseases 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 while on out-of-state camping trips with pet parents). Some of the most common tick-borne diseases in Corpus Christi area dogs are listed below.
- Lyme disease is seen in dogs and people across North America and is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which is transmitted by infected black-legged ticks or deer ticks. 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.
- Although Canine Bartonellosis is less common than some other tick-borne diseases in dogs, the symptoms of this disease can be severe. Intermittent fever and lameness are some of the first signs of Canine Bartonellosis, but if left untreated, this condition can progress to more serious conditions such as heart or liver disease.
Rickettsial organisms are obligate intracellular bacterial parasites that can be transmitted by infected ticks. Rickettsial bacteria can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Canine Anaplasmosis in dogs. Bacterial diseases such as those listed below can be extremely difficult to identify. Multiple tests or rounds of treatment may be required before a definitive diagnosis for your dog's symptoms can be determined.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is spread by the Rocky Mountain wood tick, brown deer tick, and American dog tick. This tick-borne disease affects dogs in Central, South, and North America, and it can also affect humans. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs is characterized by swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, loss of appetite, and fever. In some cases, dogs may also exhibit neurological symptoms such as balance problems or weakness.
- Ticks that can transmit Canine Ehrlichiosis include the American dog tick, brown dog tick, and lone star tick. Symptoms of this condition typically appear 1 to 3 weeks after your dog has been infected and may include fever, poor appetite, nose bleeds, and bruising. Early detection and treatment are critical to the successful treatment of Canine Ehrlichiosis. Treatment can be more difficult in dogs who develop chronic symptoms of the disease.
- Canine Anaplasmosis symptoms are similar to those of other tick-borne diseases, including lethargy, loss of appetite, stiff joints, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. However, Canine Anaplasmosis can cause seizures in dogs in severe cases.
Protozoal intracellular parasites are also transmitted by ticks. These organisms, which live in the dog's red blood cells, are responsible for the Protozoal diseases listed below.
- Canine Babesiosis is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected brown dog ticks or American dog ticks. This condition, however, can be spread through the bite of an infected dog, contaminated IV blood, or transplacental transmission from a pregnant mother to her unborn puppies. Canine Babesiosis causes the breakdown of red blood cells, resulting in symptoms such as jaundice, pale gums, lethargy, dark-colored urine, and, in some cases, generalized weakness and vomiting.
- Although Canine Hepatozoonosis is transmitted by ticks, your pet may contract the disease by eating an infected animal such as a rodent or bird. Infected dogs frequently exhibit mild or no symptoms. However, depending on the strain of the disease, more severe cases can cause symptoms such as muscle, bone, and/or joint pain, which can severely impair your pet's mobility. Fever, pale gums and skin, and enlarged lymph nodes are other symptoms of Canine Hepatozoonosis.
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, your pet's age, and your dog's lifestyle. While these medications help protect your dog, no tick prevention method is 100% effective, so caution is always advised.
If your dog has been in areas where ticks are known to live such as farmland, forests, or areas with tall grass, be sure to inspect your dog's skin for ticks as soon as you get home. Most ticks are dark brown or black in color and fairly large once they have begun to feed. An online search should help you to learn what ticks in your area look like and where they are typically found.
Ticks need to be removed carefully to protect your pup's health. Contact your vet for instructions on 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.