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Keeping a dog healthy and happy are top priorities for pet parents. One constant threat to their dog’s health that pet parents should always be on the lookout for is ticks. Diseases spread by ticks can be detrimental to both the health of dogs and pet parents. Pet parents should be aware of the common tick-borne diseases in dogs and use monthly flea and tick preventatives to help keep their pets safe.
Ticks are small eight-legged creatures that are part of the arachnid family. They are extremely resilient and can survive in most environments. Some ticks can live for years without eating and wake up from a dormant state when something warm-blooded is near.
Ticks survive on the blood of other animals and can spread deadly diseases when they bite their prey. All ticks can spread diseases, but the following are usually responsible for spreading diseases in the US:
Black-legged tick (deer tick)
Rocky Mountain wood tick
Lone star tick
Gulf Coast tick
Dogs can pick up ticks from just about anywhere, including their yard. Ticks tend to live close to the ground in wet, shady areas. Bushes and tree lines are perfect places for ticks to hide, but that doesn’t mean they can’t live in open grassy areas.
The most well-known disease spread by ticks is life-threatening. However, ticks also spread several non-deadly diseases that require antibiotics for treatment. The following diseases are most commonly spread to dogs via ticks.
Lyme disease is the most common disease ticks can spread. It is caused by Borrelia, which is a blood-borne bacteria. Lyme disease is typically spread by the black-legged tick and is more common in the northern parts of the U.S. However, more cases are being seen in southern areas.
Clinical signs of Lyme disease in dogs include:
Joint swelling and pain
Clinical signs of the disease may not appear for months. Vets diagnose the disease via a blood test.
This disease is common all over North, Central, and South America. Several species of ticks are known to spread the disease, which is why it’s so prevalent.
Clinical signs of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are similar to Lyme disease:
Loss of appetite
Many species of ticks can carry and spread canine ehrlichiosis. Early diagnosis and treatment will likely lead to a good outcome with this disease. However, if it is not treated quickly, the disease can be life-threatening.
Clinical signs of this disease in a dog are:
Low blood platelets
Unfortunately, it can take several weeks before clinical signs appear, making it difficult for pet parents to quickly seek out treatment.
Pet parents should monitor their dogs for excessive licking or itching in the same area. Treating diseases spread by ticks will require veterinary care. Fortunately, broad-spectrum antibiotics are used for most tick-related diseases. Additional treatments may be recommended to help the other problems caused by the disease. Examples include:
Intravenous (IV) fluids for dehydration
Pain medication for joints
Prescription food for weight loss
The best way for pet parents to keep ticks off their dogs is with monthly flea and tick preventatives for dogs and checking a dog for ticks after being outside in grassy or wooded areas. Preventative tick medications may not stop a tick from biting the dog, but they will kill the tick and cause it to drop off. Ticks are less likely to spread diseases if they are quickly removed.
For more information about tick diseases in dogs or preventatives, pet parents can reach out to the Fuzzy Vet Team available 24/7 to answer all pet health questions.