Ticks belong to the arachnid family. They have eight legs. Ticks live in wooded and grassy regions. They are reddish-brown, orange, or black. There are about 800 known species of ticks. Their saliva may contain microbes that cause diseases. They may feed on their host for days. Their saliva is not poisonous but may cause an immune response. This response may make the victim feel discomfort in the bite region.
Adult ticks may feed on different animals, including birds, humans, and dogs. Ticks use” questing ” to grab on to their hosts. They extend their forearms and use their back legs to hold on to grass or other objects. They patiently wait to crawl on the hosts if they pass by.
There are only a few disease-causing ticks in the United States. Pets such as dogs and cats are vulnerable to tick bites. This is due to their exploratory nature. They may become victims of various diseases. Let us discuss the tick-borne diseases in dogs and how to prevent them.
Can Ticks Cause Diseases in Dogs?
Tick bites transmit diseases to dogs. Dogs are more susceptible to tick-borne diseases as they spend more time outdoors. Tick-borne diseases can be life-threatening to dogs. It is significant to check for ticks on dogs regularly. Meet your veterinarian immediately if it shows symptoms.
Which Dogs Are The Most Vulnerable?
Dogs that live in warm tropical climates have greater chances of contracting diseases. Dogs which live in cold climatic regions might be less susceptible to tick diseases. Dogs that go hiking, walking, or live in rural areas are highly susceptible to tick-borne diseases.
Lyme Disease in Dogs
Dogs contract Lyme disease from tick bites. The blacklegged tick is the Lyme disease vector. This tick’s other name is the deer tick. It takes about 24 to 48 hours before the transmission occurs. Borrelia burgdorferi is a bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.
Once the Lyme disease bacteria is inside the bloodstream, it disseminates to various body parts. It is most concentrated in the joints and kidneys of the dog.
Lyme disease, if left untreated, can cause chronic complications such as arthritis, myocarditis, etc. It is significant to take the dog to the vet is significant if they show any following symptoms.
Lyme Disease Symptoms in Dogs
- Decreased appetite
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Lameness may occur on either of the legs.
- Pain in joints and legs
- Rashes on legs, neck, and limbs
- Joint pain along with swelling and stiffness
Lyme disease Rash on Dogs
Apart from the symptoms mentioned above, Dogs may get a bulls-eye rash. This rash is characterized by a pale center and an oval-shaped rash. The rash is red. It is hard to identify the rash as it may occur under the hair coat. The absence of a rash does not conclude the absence of Lyme disease.
Chronic Complications in Dogs Due to Lyme Disease:
Myocarditis is a condition where there is inflammation of the myocardium of the heart muscles. This disrupts the electrical signals of the heart. The symptoms include low heart rate, shortness of breath, swelling of ankles and knees, chest pain, and fatigue.
Myocarditis may cause heart failure, heart attack, or even cardiac death. It is crucial to take the dog to the vet if any of the above symptoms occur.
A glomerulus is a filtration unit present in the kidneys. These units determine what elements should stay in the body and what should not. If these are damaged, it causes glomerular disease. Lyme disease, if left untreated, may cause glomerular disease.
Lyme disease may also be the cause of arthritis. This disease causes inflammation of the joints. The following are the effects of arthritis in dogs:
- Arthritis may make it difficult for the dog to jump.
- To go up the stairs or inclined regions.
- Struggles to stand up
Doctors may prescribe sulfates, glucosamine, or chondroitin as supplements. Doctors may recommend a nutritionally balanced diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids and an anti-inflammatory diet. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help manage arthritis pain. Blood tests are taken for an accurate diagnosis of the disease.
Lyme disease may damage the nervous system. The illness may cause facial paralysis, difficulty walking, aggression, confusion, and other issues.
Nerve damage is rare in dogs.
Early treatment is required as it can prevent further complications from arising.
Lyme Disease Diagnosis:
The doctor may recommend testing the dog’s blood. They may consider the dog’s history of activities and symptoms. The vetenerian may proceed with the following
- Tests to check kidney and pancreatic function
- A complete blood count test
- This includes the C6 and Quant C6 tests and antibody level tests performed during treatment. This examination is to monitor the treatment’s effectiveness.
- Check the presence of intestinal parasites. Faecal tests are performed.
- A thyroid test to detect hypothyroidism.
- ECG to detect heart-related issues.
Prescription of doxycycline, tetracycline, or penicillin is the typical treatment for Lyme disease in dogs. The dog may see improvements within 24 to 48 hours of treatment. But the treatment is provided for about 30 days or more. The duration of treatment depends on the severity of the infection and symptoms.
Veterinarian Medical practitioners may recommend taking tests after and during treatment. These tests help understand the response to the treatment.
Lyme Disease Vaccines for Dogs:
Lyme disease vaccines should be given to dogs only after consulting the vet.
- As the regular vet may know about the medical history of the dog,
- For dogs with kidney disorders, vaccines may not be recommended.
- Dogs that have completed treatment for Lyme disease may take vaccines. Doctors may test dogs for protein loss. This is through the examination of urine tests concerning proteins.
Lyme vaccines are considered safe for most dogs as they protect the severity of the illness. This is not effective sometimes. So many experts recommend other tick prevention methods.
A vaccine is given at twelve weeks of age. It is administered in two shots, three weeks apart. Booster shots every year after that are recommended. Vaccines are quite safe if dogs do not have any preexisting conditions. Vaccination may have mild side effects such as lethargy or fatigue.
Tropical canine pancytopenia, or ehrlichiosis, is an illness caused by the bacterium Ehrlichia. This disease is difficult to diagnose. Brown Dog ticks, Lone star ticks
Black-legged ticks, etc., are the vectors of the disease. A dog may contract it even through a blood transfusion. There are various species of Ehrlichia.
Only a few cause diseases in dogs. These bacteria target white blood cells while they enter the system. They take up an intercellular position in the host. They thrive inside these cells. This aspect makes treatment of the disease with antibiotics difficult.
This disease was recorded with significance during the Vietnam War. The death of many German shepherd dogs during military operations sheds light on the illness. This is widely spread in the United States. The species of the Ehrlichia bacterium that causes the disease in dogs is not responsible for the same in humans. Greyhounds and German shepherds may get severe symptoms. They may also develop chronic symptoms.
This disease might show no symptoms in some dogs. Ehrlichiosis can sometimes go away on its own. While in other cases, dogs may enter the subclinical phase.
What are the symptoms of ehrlichiosis in dogs?
Overall, there are three stages of ehrlichiosis symptoms:
Acute phase: This phase lasts for 2 to 4 weeks. Some dogs may recover in this phase. While some may move on to the subclinical phase,
The symptoms in this phase are:
- Lymph nodes and spleen that are inflamed
- Febrile signs
- Hemorrhage or bleeding disorders
- Respiratory distress syndrome.
- Meningitis- is an infection in the brain tissues that causes unsteady feet in dogs.
- Loss of appetite
- Abnormal bleeding: this could be under the skin or through the nose.
- Pain and stiffness in muscles and joints.
- Nose discharge
- Abnormal weight loss
- Inflammation and discharge from the eye
- Nervous system damage. This is reflected through symptoms, such as confusion or paralysis,
Subclinical phase – This stage of ehrlichiosis is hard to detect. There could be no outward signs or symptoms. The dog might behave or feel normal. It is essential to regularly check with the vet to understand whether the dog has been cured or entered a subclinical phase.
If untreated in this phase, the dog may enter the chronic phase.
- From bleeding incidents to
- Issues in the eyes as the dog faces blindness and hemorrhage
- Disruption of the bone marrow’s ability to produce blood. This condition leads to anemia.
- Neurological problems,
- swollen limbs
- If the bone marrow is damaged, The dog becomes unable to create any of the blood cells necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Blood cells include white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
If the bacteria are not removed from the dog’s body, it enters the clinical phase.
How Is Ehrlichiosis Diagnosed?
- A blood test helps determine the number of red blood cells in the body.
- Laboratory testing of cell samples from lymph nodes, spleen, and lungs for checking the presence of antibodies.
- Most tests would show a negative result before 2–3 weeks of the ehrlichiosis contraction. As it takes 2-3 weeks for the immune system to react to the bacteria,
- Diagnosis also includes considering the signs and symptoms seen in the sick dog. But tests are more accurate as the symptoms of ehrlichiosis are similar to those of other diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RSMF), and various disorders.
What is the treatment for Ehrlichiosis?
In the acute phase, doxycycline and tetracycline are provided. There is improvement in the dog within 48-72 hours. But the medications have to be taken for at least three weeks. A blood transfusion is recommended for dogs with bleeding disorders as this causes anemia.
If early treatment is not provided, in such cases, other treatment methods are required, such as:
- intravenous fluids
- Steroid drugs
- Pain relievers and
- Immunosuppressive medications
Bartonellosis is a disease that is caused by the bacteria Bartonella. This disease is also called ” cat scratch fever.” Dogs may get Bartonella bacteria through contact with fleas, ticks, mice, etc.
What Are the Symptoms of Canine Bartonellosis?
Canine Bartonellosis is rare in dogs. Even if they contract it, they might not show any symptoms.
The common symptoms are:
- Febrile signs
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck area, armpits, or backs of the knees
- Joint pain
- Difficulty in Breathing
- Weight loss
- Lameness in either of the legs or fatigue
- Arrhythmias: This is a condition where the electrical impulses of the heart muscles are not strong.
Dogs with other pre-existing conditions may require additional treatments. Dogs who are malnourished, immunocompromised, or taking immunosuppressive medication may need extra medical support.
Some of the chronic inflammation issues that may arise are:
- Myocarditis is a condition where the muscles of the heart get inflamed.
- Polyarthritis – Pain and inflammation of the joints.
- Endocarditis Endocardium muscles get inflamed.
- Encephalitis: Swelling of the brain due to febrile illness.
- Lymphadenomegaly: swelling of the lymph nodes in the body. This condition may look like neck swelling.
- Vasculitis is a condition in which blood vessels swell.
- Uveitis: Swelling of the eye. This condition causes redness.
- Dermatitis or skin lesions
How is Canine Bartonellosis Diagnosed in Dogs?
- The detection of canine bartonellosis requires lab tests. These tests involve blood samples from dogs. The typical tests done are immunofluorescence antibodies (IFA),
- Urinalysis and biochemistry profile.
- Detection of leukocytosis and anemia in infected dogs is possible.
- Low levels of protein or albumin in the blood.
- By conducting a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on the cell tissues from the dermatitis region.
How is Canine Bartonellosis Treated in Dogs?
The doctor may prescribe doxycycline, amoxicillin, enrofloxacin, and rifampin for 4-6 weeks. Only dogs that show symptoms may require any of the above-stated medications. As the bacteria may develop antimicrobial resistance, these antibiotics are not effective enough in getting rid of the bacteria completely from the blood.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Dogs:
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a tick-borne febrile illness. This disease is caused by an organism called Rickettsia. Rickettsia is an organism that is classified neither as a virus nor a bacteria. The vectors of this disease are the American dog tick and the brown dog tick. In all its life cycle stages, the tick is a vector of the RMSF. Humans may contract the disease from the dog if they come into contact with the body fluids of the pet. It takes about 5–20 hours before a tick infects the dog. The incubation period ranges from two days to two weeks.
Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever:
If a dog is infected with RMSF, the owner might notice the following:
- The temperature increased to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The dog may be experiencing joint pain. If someone touches its joints, it may feel discomfort. Also, sitting and standing could be difficult for the dog.
- The dog may not be able to walk quickly. The dog will refrain from playing or venturing outside.
- They sleep more frequently than usual.
- They would have a lack of appetite. The dog would not eat food. Dogs may also vomit what they consume regularly.
- Blood disorders may occur. There may be blood in their feces, urine, or they may bleed through their nose. They might be red patches on the skin. Darker stools could also be a sign.
Specific organs may experience damage if left untreated. Treatment is required to avoid fatality.
Common symptoms, in brief, are
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Muscle, joint, and abdominal pain.
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Febrile signs
- Swelling of the face or legs
Symptoms in dogs alone do not suffice for detecting RSMF. Because dogs may exhibit some or all of these symptoms, Proper diagnosis at the vet is required. Only lab tests can be accurate for diagnosing the right cause of the illness.
Advanced cases of RMSF are likely to be dangerous to dogs. If left untreated, they may develop kidney disease, neurological disease, vasculitis, and bleeding disorders.
How is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever diagnosed?
For the diagnosis of RMSF, the medical practitioner may recommend blood tests, urinalysis, and x-rays. The following might be detected:
- The Complete Blood Count or CBC test may reveal anemia or an abnormal white blood cell count.
- The urinalysis may show protein loss.
- Abnormal calcium levels and electrolytes,
- Liver or kidney function may show abnormalities in tests.
Doctors would look at symptoms before considering any testing on the dog.
What is the treatment for RMSF?
Tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline are antibiotics administered to dogs with RMSF. Other intravenous fluids are also given if the dog faces severe symptoms.
These are provided for a minimum of 1 week to a maximum of 21 days.
It may take 24 to 48 hours for the dog to respond to the treatment. But in a few cases, the disease may not subside.
Anaplasmosis in Dogs:
Anaplasmosis in dogs is caused by an intracellular organism called Anaplasma platys or Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
They are both bacilli. These organisms are non-mobile. They use the ticks as vectors for spreading this disease. They enter the systems of the dogs through their bites. This infection is prevalent worldwide. In the United States, it is widely present in Florida.
This disease is widely prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States. The ticks that spread the Anaplasma phagocytophilum are blacklegged ticks and western black-legged ticks. Rodents may be the reservoir animals for the Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
The brown dog tick acts as the carrier of this bacteria. The disease that results from this bacteria is called Infectious Cyclic Thrombocytopenia. Dogs themselves are considered reservoir animals of Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
What are the symptoms of anaplasmosis?
- Febrile signs
- Joint pain This may cause lameness in dogs.
- Lack of appetite
- Seldom occurring symptoms include: coughing, vomiting, seizures, and
- Nose bleeding
- Meningitis (inflammation of the brain tissues)
- Impaired coordination of muscles
- Respiratory Difficulties
Symptoms arise 2–4 weeks after the bite.
Anaplasma affects the blood platelets that are responsible for blood clotting. Most dogs that contract the disease do not show symptoms. Studies conclude that their bodies can clear out the illness-causing bacteria without any support.
How is anaplasmosis diagnosed?
For detection of anaplasmosis, doctors may recommend the following:
- ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay)
- IFA (indirect fluorescent antibody) and
- PCR (polymerase chain reaction)
The doctor may look into the medical history of the dog. They may consider whether the dog lives in endemic regions or tick-prevalent areas. A physical examination may be required.
What is the treatment for anaplasmosis?
Dogs require treatment for about a month. Doxycycline is the most preferred treatment. Some dogs may test positive despite the dog being healthy. Dogs may become persistent reservoirs of the disease.
This condition does not mean they have an active infection. So, retreatment is not required.
This disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacteria babesia. Babesia can infect red blood cells. There are various species of babesia that cause this illness. This disease causes morbidity and mortality in certain severe cases. This disease ranges from acute to chronic to fatal. Most of the time, babesia in the United States is milder.
The most severe cases only happen in puppies. At the same time, adults recover quickly from mild illnesses. The incubation period is about two weeks. These protozoans attack the red blood cells. This situation causes hemolytic anemia and common anemia.
Symptoms and signs:
The three stages of babesiosis are as follows:
Acute babesiosis is where hemolytic anemia occurs. Hemolytic anemia in babesiosis is due to protozoans’ destruction of red blood cells.
Common symptoms at this stage are:
- Hemolytic anemia
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Enlargement of the spleen
- Jaundice due to damage to the liver
- Hematuria: blood in the urine
This occurs in immunocompromised dogs, such as puppies. This may also happen if multiple infected ticks have bit the dog. Either way, this is fatal to dogs. As the treatment won’t help some dogs, This is due to the severity and fast progress of the protozoans. The following are the symptoms of hyper-acute babesiosis:
- Lesser than usual temperature. This condition is called hypothermia.
- Dogs may get a shock where proper blood flow to their organs would not be sufficient. This shock leads to a condition called hypoxia.
- Another possibility is damage to the liver and lungs or tumors on these organs.
This condition is rare. In this phase, the dogs become reservoirs. This stage may not pose any life threat to dogs.
Some dogs may experience the following symptoms:
- Weight Loss
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
- Convulsions and coordination issues due to nervous system damage
How is babesiosis in dogs diagnosed?
- Babesiosis is diagnosed through urinalysis and blood tests.
- The doctor may look into the complete blood count to show anemia and a low platelet count.
- Urinalysis may show differences in albumin and bilirubinuria.
- PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to identify the protozoan gene
How Is Babesiosis in Dogs Treated?
- Dogs are given a drug called Imidocarb dipropionate, a drug recommended by FDA.
- Blood transfusion
- Administration of clindamycin
Prevention of babesiosis:
Regular deworming of dogs may prove helpful. This procedure is apart from tick bite prevention methods. The feasibility of the Babesiosis vaccine is an ongoing study.
This disease is most prevalent in the south-central and southeastern United States.
This illness is a tick-borne infection. Protozoans are the cause of this disease. There are two types of well-known hepatozoonosis – H. canis and H. americanum. H. Americanum was discovered only in the year 1997.
Transmission of Hepatozoonosis
The brown dog tick disseminates the H. canis, and the Gulf Coast Tick spreads the H. americanum protozoan. Tick bites alone do not spread the disease. Suppose a dog ingests a hepatozoonosis tick or eats animals with infected ticks. The dog might get infected.
After ingestion or bite, the protozoan gets absorbed into the bloodstream through the gut wall. Then it travels to organs such as the spleen, bone marrow, kidney, and lungs. These are affected by the protozoans.
At all stages of the life cycle, the ticks may infect the dogs as the transovarial transmission is possible from females to eggs.
Symptoms of Hepatozoonosis
- Muscle atrophy
- Eye discharge
- Joint pain
- Weight loss
- Periorbital swelling
- Hyperesthesia, or sensitivity to the sun
- Bloody diarrhea
Old world hepatozoonosis can affect dogs that have weak immune systems. While for other dogs, the effects are minimal. H. Americanum poses a threat to all dogs as it has a high mortality rate. It is crucial to consult a veterinarian if some or all of these symptoms are present in the dog.
Diagnosis of Hepatozoonosis
Diagnoses involve the following:
- These tests are helpful to determine whether the dog has a low RBC count or anemia, a high platelet count, or neutrophilia.
- The infected dog’s neutrophilia could be as high as 150,000 leukocytes/l of blood.
- Muscle biopsy: This is done to identify onion skin on the dog’s muscles.
- An X-ray is also crucial.
The doctors may note the travel history of the dog. The presence of symptoms is quite a valuable tool for doctors to diagnose. This is because blood tests cannot accurately confirm the presence of protozoans in the blood.
Treatment of Hepatazoonasis:
Doctors may administer Imizol (imidocarb dipropionate) to dogs infected with H. canis. In the case of H Americanum, dogs may require a two-week regimen of TCP medications. The TCPs are trimethoprim-sulfa, clindamycin, and pyrimethamine. Most of the time, a complete cure is not possible.
In some cases, this disease causes death, so early treatment is required to save the dog. A relapse of fever may occur in a few months. After taking the above-stated medication for two years or longer, doctors recommend giving Decoquinate for two or more years if the fever relapses. Taking decoquinate on a perpetual basis may give rise to side effects.
Anti-inflammatory drugs may be administered for pain relief. Apart from that, doctors may give intravenous fluid to the sick dog as it supports the loss of fluids.
Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE):
TBE is a tick-borne disease in dogs. This disease occurs when a tick carrying the neurotrophic tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) bites the dog. Neurotropic viruses are those viruses that affect the victim’s nervous system. Hence, this disease may cause a condition known as meningoencephalitis, meningomyelitis, or radiculitis. In some cases, both may occur.
The ticks that may spread this disease are deer ticks.
Dogs that have the following traits are more susceptible to this disease:
- Dogs that are on immunosuppressant drugs
- If they have any pre-existing conditions or diseases.
- The duration of exposure to tick bites
- Immunity of the dog
Symptoms are as follows:
- Ataxia is a condition in which voluntary muscles impairment. This condition leads to unusual walking patterns and speech changes. If the dog has this condition, he may drag and walk on one limb. Sleeping in abnormal positions with the unusual placement of the limbs during rest.
- Tremors and seizures:
- Muscle weakness, pain, tingling, numbness in dogs.
- Cranial nerve deficits. This deficit occurs when one of the twelve nerves in the cranium system fails. This condition may cause paralysis.
- This disease may affect the central nervous system, which results in death.
- A veterinarian may recommend blood tests.
- Serology for the detection of pathogens in the blood
- Immunohistology This is done to understand antigens, or proteins, in the cells.
Treatment of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE):
Treatment for TBE is just like any other viral infection. The vet may just provide supportive therapy. The symptoms are area-edited so that the immune system may get rid of the virus.
Tick Paralysis is not an infectious disease. It is a syndrome that occurs in dogs. The neurotoxins in the saliva of ticks are the cause of this condition. The ticks that cause the syndrome are the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick.
Symptoms of tick paralysis in dogs are:
- high blood pressure and rapid heart rate).
- Perpetual Vomiting
- Back pain and instability
- Absence or lack of reaction
- Excessive drooling
Stages of Tick Paralysis in Dogs:
Unlike in humans, tick paralysis in dogs has five phases. These are:
Phase 1: This is the mild stage. This stage can affect the back limbs of the dogs. So dogs may be unable to do the puppy sit position.
Phase 2: This happens when the front limbs of the dogs are paralyzed. So, dogs may feel discomfort. So they may just be able to position themselves on the chest.
Phase 3: The chest muscles weaken or paralyze, preventing the dog from sitting.
Phase 4: Dogs would not be able to breathe.
Phase 5: This stage may result in the death of the dog.
What is the treatment for tick paralysis?
- Remove all the ticks from the body of the dog.
- After that, give the dog an anti-tick bath.
- As dogs may be under stress, medical researchers recommend sedative drugs.
- Atropine is a drug that neutralizes the tick saliva in the system.
- Tick antiserum to remove those neurotoxins in the blood which are not attached to the nerves.
- Veterinarians may recommend intravenous fluids if the dog’s throat muscles are affected. Throat muscles are fundamental to the swallowing process.
- If dogs are in phase 4, the vet may also provide oxygenation.
How To Prevent Dogs From Contracting Tick-Borne Diseases?
- Dog owners may apply anti-tick creams on their dogs before venturing outside.
- Also, avoiding places where there is heavy tick infestation could be helpful.
- Cutting grass short in the yard could prevent ticks from infesting the surroundings of the house.
- Calling for tick control for infested yards could keep one’s dog safe.
- Checking for ticks on dogs may be helpful if you live in a tick-prone region.
- Vaccinating dogs can also be helpful. It is important to note that dogs have no approved vaccines for certain tick-borne diseases.
- Treat clothes with Permethrin.
- Tick repellents could help prevent further tick bites.
Removal of Ticks
- Removal of ticks from the dog is very crucial. A simple bite from a tick does not cause disease. The transmission time is at least about 24 to 48 hours.
- After removing the tick, let the local health department know that your dog was bit by a tick or seek help from a medical practitioner.
- Tick collars are an easy and effective measure to prevent tick bites in dogs.
- Spraying pesticides such as Met52TM, carbamate, or pyrethroid-based can eradicate ticks in one’s backyard.
Prevention is better than cure. If the dog has the habit of exposure to ticks, it is significant to follow the above-stated measures to keep it safe. Most tick-borne illnesses are fatal in dogs. Early treatment if symptoms occur could prove helpful in saving the dog’s life.