There are numerous different illnesses that ticks can spread, and many of these tick-borne illnesses cause similar clinical signs such as fever, lameness, joint pain, and lethargy.
Anaplasmosis is one such tick-borne illness that is spread by both Western- and Eastern-black-legged tick species as well as the brown dog tick. In some cases, dogs who are bitten by these ticks may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, and coughing.
Many veterinarians carry SNAP tests that can detect anaplasmosis with just a few drops of blood. Treatment usually consists of oral doxycycline for four weeks plus medication for joint pain, and recovery is excellent with prompt therapy.
Babesiosis is also spread through tick bites, but there are also many reports of transmission through direct animal-to-animal contact, e.g. through bite wounds. Small protozoans make their way into the bloodstream and cause rupture orhemolysis of the red blood cells, resulting in severe life-threatening anemia.
Special blood testing may be necessary for diagnosis, and treatment usually involves a combination of anti-parasitic and antibiotic medications.
Similar to Colorado Tick Fever in humans, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is caused by ticks like the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick. Signs include joint pain, fever, abdominal pain, swollen face or limbs, and lethargy. Bleeding problems such as nosebleed and focal hemorrhages of the gums and eyes are also possible because of the way that this bacteria increases the risk of anemia and blood clotting problems.
Treatment involves a three to four-week course of oral doxycycline, but more severe clinical signs may warrant hospitalization and fluid therapy, especially if organ failure is suspected.
Ehrlichiosis is another bacterial illness transmitted via tick bites. The brown dog tick is the main carrier but other ticks like the Lone Star tick have also been responsible forEhrlichia infections. Clinical signs are similar to those seen in cases of anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but in some cases, dogs can be asymptomatic carriers.
They cannot pass it on to other dogs unless a tick bites one dog and then the other, and asymptomatic carriers can still show up positive on the SNAP tests provided by veterinarians. Asymptomatic dogs should not be treated, and symptomatic dogs will need oral doxycycline for four weeks.
Hepatozoonosis is caused by ingesting a Gulf Coat tick or a brown dog tick, and each tick carries a different species of theHepatozoon protozoan. Once the tick is ingested by a dog, he will either develop bleeding problems in the digestive tract or large, painful muscle cysts. The gastrointestinal version from the brown dog tick can be treated but the muscle cyst version from the Gulf Coast tick cannot be completely cured.
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that is transmitted through bites from black-legged ticks. It is one of the most widely known tick-borne illnesses because it causes a “bullseye” lesion in people, but this is not the case with dogs.
Besides fever and joint pain, Lyme disease can also cause kidney failure and, in severe cases, has been documented in cases of fatal myocarditis in Boxer dogs. Dogs can be asymptomatic carriers, but symptomatic dogs will require doxycycline and supportive care depending on their signs.