Tick Borne Illness in Dogs

Ticks are known to be carriers of infections that create illness in dogs. While there are many diseases that can be spread by ticks, there are 4 diseases that are recognized as being the most commonly spread to canine populations. It is only by avoiding areas frequented by ticks, and using preventive measures if you and your dog frequent these regions, that you can reduce your dog’s risk of infection.

Lyme Disease

Probably the most well-recognized tick borne disease is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted by the deer tick. Symptoms of the disease are arthritic movement that comes and goes, lack of appetite, swelling and warmth in the joints and fever. These symptoms are sometimes difficult to detect and may not present themselves until months after being bitten.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another tick borne disease that is commonly known. It is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsi and is carried by the American dog tick, the wood tick and the lone star tick. Symptoms include stiffness in gait, sores on the skin, fever and neurological disorders. Typically this disease only lasts about 2 weeks, but in severe cases it can cause death.


Ehrlichiosis is a third variety of tick borne disease. It is caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia canis and is carried by the brown wood tick. Just like Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis can go undetected because symptoms may be slight or unapparent. As the disease progresses it can move into a symptom-free phase that can last a few days or extend on for years. Symptoms include weight loss, loss of appetite, swollen lymph glands, swollen limbs, various eye conditions, occasional nose bleeds and runny eyes and nose. The symptoms may display in a variety of combinations or may not show up at all. Severe cases can go on symptom free, but can still result in death.


Babesiosis is yet another common tick borne disease. It is caused by a protozoan blood infection, Babesia canis or Babesia gibsoni and carried by a variety of ticks. The protozoa break down the dog’s red blood cells and create an anemic condition. The infected tick must feed on the dog for 2 to 3 days in order for the dog to become infected. Symptoms include weakness, jaundice, fever and red or orange colored urine. While the level of infection can be reduced, a dog infected with Babesia will remain a carrier and could have recurrent anemic problems for the balance of his life.

By avoiding areas frequented by ticks, such as woods, fields and park areas, you can minimize the possibility of your dog becoming infected by one of the tick borne diseases. If your dog is an avid outdoor dog and joins you on hikes or hunting trips, using some sort of flea and tick prevention will also help avoid infection, although it is not foolproof. Be sure to check your dog for ticks each day or immediately after a hike or outdoor adventure to ensure any ticks are removed as this will minimize exposure. These types of measures will help keep your dog healthy even in the outdoor world.