Everything You Need to Know About Canine Tick-Born Disease | PetFirst
Canine Tick-Born Disease
Pet Care & Health

Everything You Need to Know About Canine Tick-Born Disease

by Sabrina Sebastian
2 years ago

March 20th is the first day of Spring and while we are excited about warmer weather, we are not excited about the ticks that may come with it. Tick-born diseases are extremely common in dogs — they affect thousands of canines every year. Tick-born diseases are transmitted when a tick, a type of parasite, bites a dog (or sometimes when a dog eats a tick).

The AKC Canine Health Foundation provides a list of seven major tick-born diseases that are often transmitted to dogs in the U.S.:

  • Canine Ehrlichiosis. This is common worldwide, not just in the U.S., and can get very dangerous very fast. Symptoms include nosebleeds, weight loss, runny eyes and nose, loss of appetite, fever, and swollen limbs; they may not show up until months after the disease has been transmitted. The disease is caused by the brown dog tick.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The American dog tick, the lone star tick, and the wood tick can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It’s not always dangerous, generally lasting for two weeks, but can sometimes become life-threatening. Symptoms to look for: skin lesions, stiffness, fever, and neurological problems.
  • Lyme disease. Caused by the deer tick, Lyme disease often doesn’t show up until many months after the initial bite. It typically causes lameness, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue, and swollen joints.
  • Canine Babesiosis. This disease is transmitted by the brown dog tick and the American dog tick. Anemia is the primary symptom; vomiting, weakness, and pale gums are also generally present.
  • Canine Hepatozoonosis. If your dog eats a Gulf Coast tick or a brown dog tick, he or she is at risk of being infected by this disease. Look for fever, muscle pain, diarrhea with blood, and runny eyes and nose.
  • Canine Anaplasmosis. This condition is also called dog fever or dog tick fever and comes from the deer tick. Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, stiff joints, diarrhea, and potentially seizures in bad cases of the disease.
  • Canine Bartonellosis. Transmitted by the brown dog tick, symptoms are fever and intermittent lameness. This disease can get serious very quickly — if not treated, it might cause heart or liver disease.


Not all of these diseases are prevalent in every region of the country. To view an interactive map showing how common each disease is in your state and your county, click here.

How can you be proactive and protect your dog from tick-born diseases this spring? First of all, use preventatives such as tick collars and topical medications (only the medications made specifically for dogs — do not use human tick repellent, as it could be toxic to your dog). These measures won’t prevent disease transmission, but they do reduce the risk.

Every time your dog comes in from outside, check him or her for ticks; ticks are the size of a sesame seed or smaller, says petMD. And unlike fleas, ticks don’t fly. Look carefully through your dog’s fur with a brush or flea comb, searching the skin for areas that seem to be inflamed. Search for lumps, too, and be especially vigilant while searching your dog’s ears, upper legs, and under their collar. If you find a tick, use tweezers to get it off. Don’t squeeze it — this will transfer its bodily fluids.

Think about where your dog has been; this could give you some clues as to whether he or she might have ticks and what type. According to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, brown dog ticks live inside and around kennels where dogs are present, especially in colder regions of North America. Lone Star ticks, deer ticks, and Western black-legged ticks are generally found among the leaves in the woods, such as the area that might surround your yard; American dog ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, and Gulf Coast ticks are often found in open fields and grassy meadows.

Finally, consult with your veterinarian about doing an annual test for tick-borne disease. The test is quick and can save you money in the future.

Unfortunately, sometimes canine tick-born disease can be unexpected — and treatment might get expensive. If you have pet insurance, though, you’ll be protected no matter what happens. Get a quote today.

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