There are four major tick borne diseases that have an extensive list of associated symptoms of tick disease. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease are probably the most well known, but the list of tick diseases also includes Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis. These diseases are often mistaken for other diseases depending upon the symptoms that manifest themselves at any particular stage of the disease.
Stages of Tick Disease
Acute stage typically occurs 1 to 4 weeks after infection with antibiotics being very effective at this point. The dog has flu-like symptoms including fever, no appetite, diarrhea and lameness. The dog is tender to touch, either shying away or yelping. Bloodwork will indicate decreased red blood counts, increased white blood counts and elevated liver enzymes.
Sub-acute or Sub-clinical stage is when any labwork done may show slight deviations from normal readings. The dog's weight stabilizes and the parasite is relatively inactive. Undue amounts of stress will disrupt this inactivity and push the disease into the next stage.
The Chronic stage is when the parasite moves into attack mode, impacting the dog's immune system. The parasite has often lived in one or more organs of the body, making it difficult to treat. At this stage, treatment is often ineffective and death is imminent.
Symptoms of Tick Disease
Tick disease has an extensive list of possible symptoms that can occur in any number of combinations. These symptoms of tick are a fever, as well as:
- Diarrhea or incontinence
- Vomiting bile (yellow and often frothy in appearance)
- Increased thirst due to dehydration
- Lack of appetite and weight loss
- Arthritis or lameness in one or all limbs
- Neck or back pain
- Swelling of the extremities
- Neurological symptoms such as seizures, obsessive/compulsive behaviors and palsied movement
- Paleness of the gums and mouth
- Problems with eyes including glassy or bloodshot eyes, retinal hemorrhaging and light sensitivity
- Discharge from the eyes or nose
- Lightening of nose color
- Nose bleeds
- Blood clotting issues even with normal blood counts
- Low or elevated white blood counts
- Low platelet counts
- Abnormal liver or kidney function test results
- Protein in urine
- Enlarged spleen or lymph nodes
- Enlarged prostate or prostatic infections in intact dogs
- Irreversible bone marrow suppression
Treatment for Tick Disease
Choice of drug is dependent on the specific tick disease infecting the dog.
Doxycycline is the drug of choice when treating Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. Dose is determined by body weight and is given twice per day for a period of 6 weeks or longer for Ehrlichiosis, for 10 to 14 days for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and for 2 to 4 weeks for Lyme Disease.
Imizol is an injectable used for treating Babesiosis. Care must be used as dehydration can cause toxicity in the kidneys when using this drug.
Tick borne diseases are most successfully treated when diagnosed in the early stages. As the disease progresses it can have progressively detrimental and irreversible affects on your dog, often leading to death. If you suspect tick disease, see your veterinarian for immediate consultation and treatment.