Do Ticks Carry Diseases That Can Hurt My Dog?

Prompt removal of ticks can prevent tick-borne illnesses.
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A bite from a tick can make your dog gravely ill if the bug happens to be carrying one of several diseases. Dogs are particularly prone to getting tick-borne illnesses because they enjoy romping through the grassy and woody areas that ticks call home. Learning about the symptoms of these diseases can help you spot an illness during its earliest stage.

Tiny Hitchhikers

Tiny deer ticks often use deer as their hosts, although they’ll also feed on dogs, humans and other mammals. Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease, which is most common in the United States in the Northeast and the Midwest. Because the disease can affect the joints, your dog’s legs might seem stiff when he walks or he might limp. Other symptoms can include fatigue, fever and decreased interest in food. Deer ticks are also responsible for the transmission of canine anaplasmosis, an illness characterized by fever, lack of energy, stiff joints, diarrhea, vomiting and appetite loss. The VCA Animal Hospitals website notes that dogs can be infected with both Lyme disease and canine anaplasmosis at the same time.

The All-American

A bite from the American dog tick can infect your dog with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A dog with Rocky Mountain spotted fever might seem tired or depressed and have difficulty walking. You might notice weight loss, swollen limbs and lymph nodes, nose bleeds, discoloration on his skin, or redness in the eyes. Although serious reactions can occur in any dog, they're more likely if your dog is a German shepherd or a purebred. The American dog tick can also transmit the canine babesiosis infection, an illness that can cause anemia as your dog’s immune system rids itself of infected blood cells. Signs of anemia include weakness, pale gums and lack of energy.

Brown and Dangerous

Brown dog ticks can transmit canine ehrlichiosis, canine bartonellosis and canine hepatozoonosis. Canine ehrlichiosis can cause swollen limbs, fever, lack of interest in food, a bleeding disorder, weight loss, depression, and watery nose and eyes. Dogs who develop canine bartonellosis might have fever, lameness, runny nose, cough, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting and diarrhea. Prompt treatment can prevent serious complications such as liver or heart disease. Symptoms of canine hepatozoonosis can include fever, muscle pain, runny nose and eyes, and diarrhea.

Fighting the Illness

It can be difficult to diagnose a tick-borne illness. Symptoms might not occur until days, weeks or months after a tick bites your dogs; in the initial stages of the disease, you might think your dog has a minor virus. Blood and other tests can reveal whether his symptoms are caused by a tick-borne illness. Depending on the type of tick-borne illness your dog has, his veterinarian might prescribe antibiotic or antimicrobial medication. Other treatments also might be necessary, such as a blood transfusion if your dog is severely anemic.