As a dog parent, understanding the symptoms of common tickborne diseases and their danger is an important component of maintaining your dog’s health.

Diseases spread by ticks pose a real risk to dogs throughout the United States. With proper education and prevention, you can do your part to help protect your furry friend from tickborne diseases.

What Are Tickborne Diseases?

Tickborne diseases are illnesses transmitted by ticks, small arachnids that feed on the blood of various animals, including humans. When a tick bites, it can transfer pathogens, like bacteria, viruses, or parasites, that cause disease.

Below, you'll learn more about the most common tickborne diseases that affect dogs in the U.S., symptoms to watch for, and how to ensure proper tick and flea prevention for your dog.

Most Common Tickborne Diseases

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the most common tickborne diseases in the U.S. include Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, Southern tick-associated rash illness, and tick-borne relapsing fever.

Here's why:

1. Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection which is transmitted through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick. The initial symptom is often a "bull's-eye" skin rash. Left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system, causing more severe symptoms.

2. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)

Despite its name, RMSF is prevalent across the U.S., not just in the Rocky Mountain region. The disease is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii and transmitted by various types of ticks. It can lead to severe symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, and a rash that often appears on the wrists, ankles, or trunk of the body.

3. Anaplasmosis

Anaplasmosis is caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum, transmitted primarily by the black-legged tick and the western black-legged tick. Anaplasmosis typically causes symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches.

4. Babesiosis

Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. Most commonly transmitted by the black-legged tick, it's typically found in the northeastern and upper midwestern U.S. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the disease can be life-threatening, particularly for individuals with a weak immune system, no spleen, or other serious health conditions.

5. Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is caused by different types of Ehrlichia bacteria, transmitted through the bite of an infected lone star tick. Symptoms typically include fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. In severe cases, Ehrlichiosis can cause serious and potentially life-threatening complications.

Your dog's risk for exposure to specific tickborne diseases may depend on your geographic location. Although ticks are found throughout the U.S., the geographic distribution of ticks can change from year to year or even sometimes from season to season.

Remember, early treatment can go a long way when treating tickborne illnesses, so schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing at the first sign of symptoms.

Symptoms of Tickborne Diseases in Dogs

If you suspect your dog may have been bitten by a tick, it's important to seek veterinary care promptly. When left untreated, tickborne diseases can have serious complications in dogs. Dogs with tickborne diseases may exhibit any of the following symptoms:

Worried about your dog but can't bring your furry friend to the vet? BetterVet offers veterinary check-ups, bringing exceptional veterinarians to your doorstep. Your pet can even receive their vaccinations in the comfort of your home, including those to help prevent the most common tickborne diseases, such as Lyme disease.

Preventing Tickborne Diseases

Safe and effective flea and tick prevention is important for keeping you and your furry friends happy and healthy! First and foremost, it's important to stay informed of the common ticks located in your region. During your visit with a BetterVet veterinarian, discuss preventative measures to help reduce the risk of your dog getting a tickborne disease. Medications such as a topical product, oral medication, or the Seresto tick collar may be an option for your dog. 

If your dog spends time outdoors, it's important that you check them daily for ticks. Regular veterinary checks are a vital part of preventing tickborne diseases and catching tick bites promptly. If you do find a tick, it is recommended that you remove it quickly. Your BetterVet doctor can discuss proper tick removal with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are ticks dangerous?

Diseases from tick bites can be dangerous for both humans and pets. However, most tick bites are painless and may only cause mild symptoms. Ticks that carry disease-causing agents  pose a higher risk, as humans and pets can become ill when bitten by an infected tick.

Discuss Tick Prevention With BetterVet

Prevention can go a long way in keeping you and your pet healthy and protected from the most common tickborne illnesses. Book a virtual vet visit or schedule a home visit to discuss important measures to keep your dog safe and ensure your dog's vaccines are up-to-date.