Tick-borne diseases pose a very real threat to the health of dogs and people throughout San Gabriel. 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 impact thousands of dogs across the US every year and are capable of producing some very serious and painful symptoms for your pet. Some of the conditions spread by ticks can even be fatal for 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 throughout North America. In some cases, these diseases are spread 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). The following are some of the most common tick-borne diseases found in dogs in the San Gabriel area.
- 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.
- 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 organisms are bacterial intracellular parasites spread by infected ticks. Rickettsial bacteria are responsible for a variety of illnesses in dogs, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Canine Anaplasmosis. Bacterial diseases, such as those listed below, can be difficult to identify. Multiple tests or rounds of treatment may be required before a definitive diagnosis of your dog's symptoms can be made.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, also known as RMSF, is transmitted by the Rocky Mountain wood tick, brown deer tick, and American dog tick. This tick-borne disease is seen in dogs throughout Central, South, and North America, and it can also affect humans. Some of the most common symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs include swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, loss of appetite, and fever. Dogs may also experience neurological symptoms such as balance problems or weakness in some cases.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
- Although Canine Hepatozoonosis is a tick-borne disease, your pet could contract the disease by eating another infected animal such as a rodent or bird. Dogs infected with this disease will often show mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. That said, depending on the strain of the disease more severe cases can lead to symptoms that can seriously impact 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 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 number one defense against tick-borne diseases in dogs. Speak to your vet to find out 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 go a long way to protecting your dog, no tick prevention method is 100% effective, so diligence is always a must.
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.