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What diseases can dogs get from ticks?

Tick-borne diseases pose a very real threat to the health of dogs and people throughout Boulder County. 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

Each year, thousands of dogs in the US are affected by tick-borne diseases, which can cause some very serious and agonizing symptoms for your pet. Tick-borne illnesses can sometimes even be fatal to dogs.

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

As a result of the ability of ticks to transmit one type of organism or multiple organisms to your dog through a single bite (coinfection), various organisms can cooperate to release toxins and activate your dog's immune system. When these organisms enter your pup, they invade their cells and compromise their immune system. It is possible for some tick-borne microbes to cooperate with one another inside the body of your pet, which can result in recurrent 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

In North America, dogs are susceptible to a variety of tick-borne diseases. Occasionally, these illnesses are spread by ticks that dogs encounter close to their homes, but occasionally, the pet contracts these illnesses while they are away from home (often while going on out-of-state camping trips with pet parents). Here is a few of the most typical tick-borne illnesses in dogs in the Boulder County region that have been identified.

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 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 Diseases

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

  • The Rocky Mountain wood tick, brown deer tick, and American dog tick are all vectors of RMSF or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In Central, South, and North America, dogs can develop this tick-borne illness, which can also affect humans. Some of the most typical symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs include swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, poor appetite, and fever. Dogs can occasionally also experience neurological symptoms like weakness or balance problems.

Canine Ehrlichiosis

  • Canine Ehrlichiosis can be spread by a variety of ticks, including the American dog tick, brown dog tick, and lone star tick. Fever, poor appetite, nose bleeds, and bruising are a few of the symptoms of this illness that may start to show up one to three weeks after your dog becomes infected. The keys to successfully treating canine ehrlichiosis are early diagnosis and treatment. In dogs who exhibit chronic disease symptoms, treatment may be more difficult.

Canine Anaplasmosis

  • Lethargy, loss of appetite, stiff joints, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting are among the signs of canine anaplasmosis that are most frequently seen. These signs are similar to those of other tick-borne illnesses. However, canine anaplasmosis can occasionally cause seizures in canines.

Protozoal Diseases

Also transmitted by ticks are Protozoal intracellular parasites. These organisms make their home in the dog’s red blood cells and are the cause of the Protozoal diseases listed below.

Canine Babesiosis

  • Canine Babesiosis is most commonly transmitted by 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 red blood cell breakdown, which causes symptoms such as jaundice, pale gums, lethargy, dark-colored urine, and, in some cases, generalized weakness and vomiting.

Canine Hepatozoonosis

  • Although Canine Hepatozoonosis is a tick-borne disease, your pet could contract it by eating an infected animal such as a rodent or bird. Dogs infected with this disease frequently exhibit only mild symptoms or none at all. However, depending on the strain of the disease, more severe cases can cause symptoms that can seriously impair your pet's mobility, such as muscle, bone, and/or joint pain. Other 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 usually treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics. While your dog is receiving antibiotic treatment, 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

The most effective defense against diseases transmitted by ticks in dogs is year-round tick prevention medication. According to where you live, your pet's age, and the way your dog lives, ask your veterinarian which parasite prevention drug is best for your pet. While these drugs do a good job of protecting your dog, no tick prevention strategy is ever completely successful, so diligence is always required.

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.

If your dog is showing severe symptoms of a tick-borne disease it's essential to seek veterinary care. Visit our Boulder County vets right away or contact your nearest emergency vet.

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Lafayette Companion Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Boulder County companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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