Tick Borne Diseases

Tick Borne Diseases

Ticks are parasites that can be found in trees, shrubs, bushes and tall grasses.  Ticks fall from their perch onto mammals as they pass by.  Once attached the tick bites the host and feeds on its blood.  The feeding tick is basically a blood sucker. It must keep its host’s blood from clotting in order to continue sucking so it can regurgitate assorted enzymes that keep the blood flow liquid and smooth. It is during this regurgitation process that other organisms can enter into the host and cause serious illness.  Most tick borne diseases can be treated successfully with antibiotics and supportive care.

Lyme Disease

While the infection we know today as Lyme disease (named for the Connecticut town) has been around for at least a century, public awareness (and confusion) did not really occur until the late 1980s. Media exposure of this infection virtually exploded, leaving most of the general public with some basic knowledge and a great deal of misconception.

Lyme Disease is transmitted by the deer tick.  Dogs with Lyme disease may exhibit lameness due to joint pain, chronic arthritis and/or kidney disease.


Ehrlichia, named for the Dr. Ehrlich who first described them, are a type of bacteria that infect and live within the white blood cells of their hosts.Ehrlichia are spread from host to host by the Brown Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick.

Dogs with Ehrlichia infections may experience fever, immune mediated destruction of red blood cells and platelets, arthritis, eye disease and/or kidney disease.  Ehrlichia infection can be fatal if left untreated.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Although the name may lead you to believe it occurs in the Rocky Mountains only, this disease occurs in the western and the southeastern U.S.  The CDC reports that over 1200 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever occur in humans annually.  All three of the ticks mentioned previously can carry and transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Symptoms in dogs include fever, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, cough, weight loss, skin lesions, and ocular and oral hemorrhages.  Generally, dogs respond well to antibiotics if treatment is begun early.  Without treatment, the disease can be fatal.

Preventing Tick Borne Diseases

Only Lyme Disease can be prevented with vaccination.  If your pet is determined to have a high risk of becoming infected, the doctor may recommend annual vaccination in addition to tick prevention.

Tick control on the host is an effective means of infection prevention. There are several effective tick control products available, including: the Preventic® collar, Advantix®, Vectra 3D®, Frontline® and Revolution®. All of these products either kill the tick or cause it to drop off prior to being able to transmit a disease.

If you find a tick on your pet, take some precautions for yourself prior to removing it.  Numerous cases of tick diseases occur in humans every year from removing infected ticks from their pets.  Fingers can become contaminated with infected tick fluids and can transmit the infection to humans through skin abrasions or even by rubbing the eyes.  Always use gloves or tweezers for tick removal.  Probably the best method is to kill the tick with an insecticide and let them fall off of the pet.

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