Dog Diseases from Ticks

Dog diseases from ticks can be devastating and even fatal if not treated in a timely fashion. If your dog begins showing symptoms of a tick-borne disease and lives in an area where he may be exposed, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Lyme Disease

Probably the most well known of all tick diseases, Lyme disease has few symptoms and is probably the most difficult to recognize. It originated on the East coast, but there are instances of Lyme disease all throughout the country, so don't assume your dog can't contract it just because of your location.

Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks, which look very similar to common brown dog ticks. The most common symptom is lameness in the joints closest to the tick bite, but this may not appear for a couple of months. The lameness may last a couple of weeks and then disappear before coming back at a later date.

Additional symptoms include loss of appetite, seizures, behavior changes and swollen lymph nodes. Because these symptoms can be difficult to diagnose, consult your veterinarian if you find a deer tick on your dog.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the other well known tick disease in dogs. Despite its name, it is most common in the East, though it, too, can be found anywhere. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever has a much more rapid onset of symptoms, which are more apparent.

Though Lyme disease doesn't often kill, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can if not treated quickly. Within four to five days, your dog will develop a high fever.

Symptoms may include:

  • depression
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • painful joints
  • swollen lymph nodes 
  • bruising 
  • hemorrhaging of skin

Neurological symptoms include difficult maintaining balance and seizures.


Though not as well known, Ehrlichiosis is responsible for dog deaths in all 50 states and is difficult to diagnose because of vague symptoms. Once in the dog's body, it kills white blood cells faster than your dog can replace them, which can cause devastating results.

Ehrlichiosis has three stages. The first stage, called the acute stage, is brief and appears to be a small cold with symptoms such as snotty nose, diarrhea, fever and lethargy. The second stage, known as the subclinical stage, has no symptoms and can last for years.

If Ehrlichiosis reaches its final stage, known as the chronic stage, outlook is not good and symptoms are very severe.

Symptoms include:

  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • cough
  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing
  • depression
  • weight loss
  • pain in joints
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • nose bleeds
  • rash
  • seizures
  • disorientation


Babesiosis is a disease that affects red blood cells. It is usually contracted by the brown dog tick, but that's not the only culprit. It's most common in the South but does appear in other areas. Many dogs born in the South appear to be immune to its effects.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • red or orange urine
  • weight loss 
  • loss of appetite

Inflammation and difficult clotting can also occur.

Any of this diseases can be difficult to detect and treat so be sure to check your dog for ticks when he comes in from outside or a hike through the woods. Removing ticks before they bite is your best defense against tick borne illnesses.