Most Common Tick Diseases in Dogs

When it comes to your dog ticks are one of the most dangerous pests that you should look out for because these parasites not only suck blood but also carry diseases that can even threaten the life of your furry friend. So here are some of the most common tick-borne diseases in dogs that you should learn about and know how to recognize.

A quick recap on ticks

Ticks are commonly mistaken for insects, but science classifies them as arachnids. Arachnids have four pairs of legs with no antenna while insects feature three pairs of legs and an antenna.

Ticks can be found on grass and shrubs where they wait for a host. If successful, they will crawl on your dog’s body and set up shop there. But those that don’t find a host will survive for about 2 months before dying.

As parasites, ticks attach themselves on the host’s body and feed off of their blood. The host can be anything from your dog to you, ticks aren’t picky. And once attached they might feed on the blood for several days.

Some ticks also carry diseases. When they feed, ticks transfer these diseases to their host infecting them with the illness that they are vectors for. Some diseases, if not discovered early, may prove to even be fatal to both your dogs and humans. And since often ticks go unnoticed, it’s essential to check yourself and your dog every time you come indoors from an area that might have ticks. As well as use different tick control methods. Because ticks can easily transfer from your pet to you and vice versa. And getting a tick disease is no fun for anybody.

Types of ticks

Ticks are usually categorized into two groups: soft and hard ticks. Soft ticks are uncommon in dogs and are mostly found on birds, bats, and humans. They are shaped like raisins and lack the hard shell found in hard ticks.

Hard ticks, on the other hand, are the main suspects of tick-related diseases in dogs and cats. Among the most popular hard-tick species are the brown dog tick, the American tick, lone star tick, and deer or black-legged tick. And though there are many more tick species out there, only these attack dogs.

Five common types of tick diseases in dogs

Lyme disease

One of the most common diseases infected deer ticks transmit is Lyme disease. It’s caused by a bacteria called spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease can be transmitted to dogs and humans by a nymph or adult deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Research shows that as many as 50 to 75 percents of dogs in New England test positive to Lyme disease. And since Lyme disease in dogs originated from a place in New England called Lyme Connecticut, hence the name of the disease and that shocking statistic, you can only imagine what’s the percentage where you live. Especially, considering that over time Lyme disease has made its way across the shores to the rest of the U.S.

Lyme disease is a controversial topic as most dogs that test positive tend not to show clinical symptoms. But those that do, the typical symptoms they have decreased in appetite, fever, lameness, joint pains, and lethargy. These symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs may take months to appear. And dogs, unlike humans, dogs don’t get a bulls-eye rash around the bite of the tick so it’s even header to tell if your dog has Lyme disease.

The infected deer tick needs to be attached to your dog for at least 48 hours for it to transmit the Lyme disease. Therefore, the best way to prevent Lyme disease is by removing ticks from your pup’s skin as soon as you notice them.

Besides checking for ticks, certain products can prevent Lyme disease in dogs. It is best to consult your veterinary on the best products to use. There are also plenty of Lyme prevention vaccinations for dogs. However, the need for these vaccines should be determined by your vet.

Canine Bartonellosis

Dog Bartonellosis is an infectious disease in dogs caused by exposure to infected brown tick. The disease can also be transmitted to humans and cats. Herding and hunting dogs are more at risk to contract this disease due to their increased exposure to brown ticks as well as fleas, sand flies, and lice that are also known carriers of Canine Bartonellosis.

Bartonellosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted from your dog to you. The Bartonellosis symptoms are identical both in dogs and humans. They include lameness, fever, inflammation of the nose, eyes, lymph nodes, brain and heart muscles, enlarged spleen and liver, nausea, diarrhea, cough, seizure, arthritis, loss of appetite, as well as nosebleeds.

If you suspect that your dog might be infected with this illness, you need to bring your pet to the vet immediately. The vet will first conduct a full examination and order some tests including through blood tests, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. If affected, the blood test will reveal a low count in platelets and red blood cells (possible indication of anemia) while the white blood cells will double in size (first sign of infection). Based on the finding, your vet will then advise you on the best mode of treatment. The extent of treatment will largely depend on the magnitude of infection.

You can avoid Bartonellosis by mowing your lawn regularly and performing routine tick checks on your dog. You can also use flea and other pest control methods to enhance your dog’s protection against different pests further.

Canine Anaplasmosis aka tick fever

Anaplasmosis comes from the same family as Lyme disease. Do Anaplasmosis or tick fever in dogs is caused by a bite from an infected deer tick that is a vector for the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacteria. A lesser form of the disease can also be caused by a brown tick bite.

Symptoms of tick fever in dogs are similar to that of Lyme disease. So your dog will most likely experience fever, joint pain, lethargy, loss of appetite and lameness. With the addition of vomiting and diarrhea. And in more severe cases, seizures can also happen. These symptoms usually show up within the first 7 days of infection.

To confirm that your pup has anaplasmosis, several tests such as ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) are performed by the vet. And the treatment of Anaplasmosis is very similar to that of other tick-borne diseases in dogs. However, the dosage of the antibiotic may vary.

If your dog is diagnosed with this disease, you should inspect every corner of your home and yourself and start tick control measures as this disease poses a threat to humans as well.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

The Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a common tick-borne disease in North and South America. This disease can be spread by four types of ticks: American dog tick, lone star tick, brown tick, and the wood tick. And if the tick is infected, it means that it’s rickettsia group bacteria known to cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in dogs.

The symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever appear quickly compared to the rest of the illnesses mentioned in this article. They include poor appetite, joint and muscle pain, fever, coughing, vomiting, swelling, and diarrhea.

If diagnosed early, the disease is very treatable through prompt antibiotics but if not, it can even be fatal.


Infected American and brown ticks can cause a Babesiosis infection. It can have mild to severe symptoms. The most common red flags to look out for when it comes to Babesiosis in dogs are lack of energy and appetite, fever, weakness, pale tongue and gums, red-colored urine and swollen lymph nodes.

Babesiosis is common in America. Diagnosing Babesiosis in dogs is quite challenging. Your vet will need to conduct a series of tests to confirm that your pup does have this disease. And although treatment is effective it doesn’t that you will be able to rid your dog of this illness fully. Because there have been cases where dogs with low immunity show signs of the disease even after it has been treated.

Ticks are not only annoying but also extremely dangerous pests to our pets. So if you want to make sure that your pup doesn’t contract one of the above-mentioned tick-borne diseases, do regular tick check and employ other pet tick control methods. Because after all, prevention is still the best cure.

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