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Tick-borne diseases in dogs, is your dog at risk?

What tick-borne diseases can my dog get

Tick-borne diseases your dog might be exposed to

We all dread ticks and fleas, and the problem is they are everywhere. Forests, deserts, colder climates, hotter climates ticks are somewhere. If we find a tick on our beloved pet we want to remove it as quick as possible. Most of us have read or heard of Lyme diseases, which has been on the rise worldwide. However, the list of potential tick-borne diseases is an extensive one. In this article, we will look at the common medical conditions your dog might be exposed to due to the geographic location. You can limit your risk to ticks by using tick repellents for your furry friend and yourself.

Suggestions on Tick (and flea) repellents can be found in this article.

Often confused with tick-borne diseases, mange and the related Sarcoptic and Demodectic mites are actually different. Please see the mange home remedy article for information.

What tick-borne diseases are out there?

Lyme Disease

Probably the most well-known condition that is spread by ticks. Caused by 4 species of the Borrelia bacteria. The chance of your precious pet getting Lyme disease is actually higher than it is for people. Lyme disease is found worldwide and is considered endemic in parts of the United States and Europe. Other names used for Lyme disease, Lyme Borreliosis, Lyme Arthritis, Erythema Migrans with Polyarthritis.


  • Fever
    Tick-borne disease - Lyme disease in dogs

    Data from CAPC on current cases of Lyme disease in canines

  • Reduced appetite
  • Lethargy/depression
  • Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain
  • Swelling of joints
  • Lameness issues, sometimes intermittent lasting a few days and coming back a few weeks later.
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Increased thirst and urination, with possible kidney failure

Ticks have to bite and feed on your dog for a period of 1 to 2 days to transmit the disease. Younger dogs seem more susceptible to getting infected.

If you and your dog have gone to areas where ticks are found, tall grasses, woods, thick brush, make sure to check your dog thoroughly for ticks. The faster you remove the ticks the less likely he contracts Lyme disease.

Diagnosis and treatment

If your dog starts showing symptoms and you suspect he has been bitten by a tick please consult a vet. It is actually possible to test for Lyme Disease at home by with a pin prick blood test with these Lyme test kits, or by sending the actual tick to a lab for testing with this tick test kit. Alternatively, your veterinarian can do two different tests to rule out Lyme disease and examine him for any additional symptoms. Your veterinarian will often run a blood test to see if there are any positive result to antibodies in response to the bacteria. The other test is a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. Which is a specific DNA test that detects the presence of Borrelia bacteria. These tests sometimes can give a false negative result if the dog does not have high enough levels of antibodies in their bloodstream or if the bacteria is isolated. Often a follow-up test will be suggested to rule out a false negative test result.

Treatment includes a course of antibiotic, usually Doxycycline for a few weeks. Which often will resolve symptoms fade quickly. However, in more severe cases, the infection might persist and an extended treatment may be needed. Symptomatic treatments will be provided by your veterinarian to relieve the pain or other issues your dog might experience.


Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne disease caused by the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacteria. The western black-legged tick and deer ticks are responsible for transmitting this disease a large variety of animals including dogs and people. Ticks transmitting Anaplasmosis can be found worldwide. Dogs often start showing symptoms 24 hours to 7 days after infection, however not all dogs will show clear symptoms of this disease. The brown dog tick can transmit a lesser version of Anaplasmosis through the Anaplasma platys bacteria which can cause a condition known as thrombocytopenia, which is a blood clotting disorder causing easy bruising, nosebleeds and more severe bleeding when dog a skin laceration.


Tick-borne diseases - Canine Anaplasmosis cases in 2018

Data from CAPC on current cases of Anaplasmosis in canines

    • Joint pain and stiffness often mistaken for arthritis
    • High fever
    • Lethargy
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nauseousness and vomiting
    • Diarrhea
  • Neurological conditions including seizures and a stiff neck in more severe cases

Diagnosis and treatment

Symptoms are very similar to Lyme disease and an infection of both bacteria is known to happen as these are transmitted by the same tick species. When a veterinarian suspects an Anaplasmosis infection they will suggest a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction), IFA (indirect fluorescent antibody) or ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test.

If your dog’s results are positive treatment is very similar to other tick-borne diseases. Often Doxycycline is prescribed for approximately a month and dogs respond quickly to treatment. Symptoms often start subsiding within a couple of days after the course of antibiotics is started. Even if a dog has recovered from the infection his tests might still come positive, however, this does not mean the infection is still active and due to that subsequent blood tests are seldom suggested.

Dogs can have their tests come back as a positive but never showed signs of the disease. This has been shown in a study of approximately 40% in such affected areas. These dogs seem to be carriers and it is unknown if they eventually will start showing symptoms or not. If your dog seems clinically healthy but shows no symptoms a traditional treatment might not be suggested as they could be just a carrier. However, a tick control schedule might be suggested to minimize further exposure to ticks. Research has shown that if a dog has a co-infection (for example a Borrellia and an Anaplasma infection) the odds increase for the dog to show symptoms.


Another tick-borne disease that has been increasing worldwide over the last decade. Caused by Ehrlichia canis it is also known as canine rickettsiosis, canine hemorrhagic fever, canine typhus, tracker dog disease, and tropical canine pancytopenia. The brown dog tick is responsible for spreading Ehrlichiosis caused by. Symptoms start anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks after infection and sometimes has a longer incubation period. It is suspected that a tick has to bite and feed for multiple hours to transmit the disease. There are 2 variations of Ehrlichiosis. Canine Monocytotropic Ehrlichiosis (CME) is the most common type that is causing infections worldwide. The other type is Canine Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis, mostly spread by the Castor Bean tick in Europe and the Lone Star Tick in North America. Both varieties show similar symptoms.

Ehrlichiosis comes in three different stages. And the symptoms change depending on the progression of the disease and the severity might vary because of how the immune system gets compromised in the course of the disease.

Stage 1 symptoms

Tick-borne diseases - Ehrlichiosis in dogs

Data from CAPC on current cases of Ehrlichiosis in canines

Acute phase of Ehrlichiosis:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Chronic inflammation of the eyes
  • Thrombocytopenia causing bruising and bleeding, including random nosebleeds. This is due to low platelet counts causing a blood clotting disorder.

Stage 2 symptoms

If the disease is not caught during these initial stages it will progress to a sub-clinical phase. The symptoms for the sub-clinical phase include very limited physical signs. Your dog might appear healthy, and this stage can last anywhere from a few months to several years before progressing to a chronic stage. Some dogs are known to recover from this phase on their own.

  • Hypergammaglobulinemia, a condition where there is a high count of immune protein in blood counts.
  • Thrombocytopenia persists from the acute stage or might start showing during this stage.
  • Anemia, decreased red blood cell counts
  • This phase can last months to years

Stage 3 symptoms

The final stage, known as the more severe, chronic stage also known as the clinical phase seems to be more common in German Shepherds and Doberman Pinchers.

  • Lethargy
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • During blood tests, both white and red blood cell counts will be decreased
  • More susceptible to other medical conditions due to a weaker immune system
  • Bone marrow suppression
  • Bleeding caused by thrombocytopenia
  • Death

Diagnosis and treatment

When a tick-borne disease like Ehrlichia is suspected your veterinarian might recommend similar tests as we previously listed with Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. The antibody tests like PCR and ELISA are recommended as they also will be able to check for co-infections. Often Monocyte levels will be checked to aid in the diagnosis of this illness. Early tests might come back negative as the dog has not created enough antibodies for the test to show a positive result.

Treatment options are similar to other tick-borne diseases, Doxycycline, Minocycline, and Tetracycline will be often prescribed for a duration of 45 days or more. If your dog is affected by thrombocytopenia, a blood transfusion sometimes is recommended. Other symptomatic treatments might be suggested by your veterinarian to keep your pup comfortable.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Other names for this include New World Spotted Fever, Tick Typhus, North American Tick Typhus, São Paulo Fever, Tobia Fever, Choix Fever, Macular Fever, Pinta Fever, Fiebre Maculosa, Fiebre Manchada, and Tick-borne Typhus Fever. RMSF is widespread and variations of the illness are found worldwide.  RMSF is found in the western hemisphere and spread by multiple ticks. For the United States and Canada the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, Lone Star tick, and brown dog tick are responsible for carries. Mexico and South America are reported to have RMSF spread by the Canyenne Tick.

It is believed that a tick needs to be feeding anywhere from 6 to 20 hours to transfer RMSF to its host. Most infections for RMSF happen during March – October and symptoms take anywhere from 2 to 14 days develop. Known among humans to give a skin rash that looks like red spots and fever shortly after infection. In dogs, this illness is a lot harder to spot. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), is more common among dogs 3 years of age and younger. Interestingly, among those, 80% of the infected dogs are dogs that are mostly outdoors.


  • Fever onset 4-5 days after the bite
  • Swelling of the lips, eyes or genital areas and limps
  • Bleeding within the eye
  • Involuntary (dancing) eye movements
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling in joints
  • Head tilt or shake, circling
  • Labored breathing or coughing
  • Depression
  • Discolored spotting on the skin
  • Lethargic
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Necrosis in extremities of the dog, this is seen in later stages of the disease.

Notably, German Shepherds seem more susceptible to RMSF and English Springer Spaniels that have a phosphofructokinase deficiency ( a metabolic disorder found among Springer Spaniels) have a more acute and severe form of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your veterinarian might suggest a CBC (complete blood count), PCR or an IFA test to see if there are any antibodies relating to RMSF. So mimes a biopsy of skin lesions will be done, however often this means a more severe case of RMSF and the prognosis is guarded at that stage.

Treatment often is done with a 15-30 day round of Tetracycline, Doxycycline or Chloramphenicol. Supportive care for symptomatic treatment might be necessary as well. Mortality rates in dogs are mostly due to delayed diagnosis or incorrect treatment. However, the appropriate antibiotic will reduce the severity of illness quickly and as long as there has not been tissue necrosis (thrombotic lesions) or coagulation disorders.
Naturally acquired immunity does play a roll in fighting this tick-borne disease.


Carried by the Gulf coast tick, Hepatozoonosis is mainly found in southern and southeastern parts of the United States. However, Hepatozoonosis is a tick-related disease that is found in much of the world. Most commonly in southern Europe, Southeast Asia, Middle East, Africa and the islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. There are two variants of the disease, American Canine Hepatozoonosis (ACH) and Old World Hepatozoonosis (OWH). ACH found in the Americas tends to be more severe and has a higher mortality rate compared to OWH which is found on the other continents. OWH is transmitted through the brown dog tick.

Tick-borne diseases - gulf coast tick female


Hepatozoonosis can be hard to spot, often showing very little symptoms. As it can affect the bones, muscles and internal organs, not always showing clear signs to the owner that the dog might be ill.

  • Fever
  • Lesions on internal organs (OWH)
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Dogs still show an appetite when food is directly put in front of them
  • Weight loss
  • Soreness, stiffness
  • Muscle atrophy (loss) and cysts
  • Poor body condition
  • Kidney failure

Diagnosis and treatment

OWH version can be diagnosed by means of a blood test, ACH is a bit more complex as it does not often show in blood results. The most efficient way is by means of a muscle biopsy that shows cysts in the tissue. PCR tests can give a positive or negative result depending on the antibodies found and is considered a valid mean for diagnosis.

For OWH the treatment is often done with Imidocarb Dipropionate for approximately 2 weeks. And a round of Doxycycline for 3 weeks. In severe cases, this treatment might be extended to 8 weeks.

At the present time, American Canine Hepatozoonosis is considered an incurable disease. For ACH a good quality of life can be maintained through glucocorticoid or NSAID supportive treatments. A TCP treatment, which is a combination of Trimethoprim/sulf, Clindamycin, and Pyrimethamine to prevent relapses midterm. And long term treatment frequently is done with Decoquinate. Though incurable, ACH is manageable for your dog and you with the right treatment program.


Babesiosis is an infection caused by the protozoan parasite Babesia. Babesia caused infections are seen worldwide. In the United States, the illness in dogs is seen in the southern states and small occurrences have been reported in PA, NJ, and MA. Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Greyhounds seem more susceptible to Babesiosis than other breeds. Young dogs seem to have a higher rate of infection as well. The brown dog tick is mostly responsible for spreading this infection. Interestingly, this is one of the few tick-borne diseases that can be spread directly from animal to animal. Having an infected dog with lesions bite another dog. There is also research indicating that a bitch might infect her unborn puppies the placenta.


Babesiosis in the United States seems to be a slightly milder variant compared to the disease found elsewhere in the world. Ticks need to feed 24 – 48 hours for Babesia bacteria to be transmitted into the bloodstream there are two forms a subclinical (no or little symptoms) or the acute form which can cause shock and death in severe cases.

  • Dark urine
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Pale Gums
  • Tiredness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Systemic shock
  • Hemolytic crisis
  • Enlarged spleen

 Diagnosis and treatment

There are various tests to diagnose babesiosis. PCR being the most popular one as it can detect all four species of the Babesia bacteria. ELISA and IFA testing is used to but limited to the Babesia canis. Previously blood smears were used however the newer tests have better diagnostic capabilities and gaining in popularity. Titers can be done as well but as the dog might not have the antibodies build up in their system the test might show a false negative. On the other side of the coin, if I dog had already developed antibodies previously, it can take years before their counts lower. Even if dogs seemingly recover from babesiosis it is worth to know these dogs will always remain a carrier of the disease and can infect others by blood transfusion or bites. Also, keep in mind they could relapse at any given time.

Your veterinarian might suggest imidocarb dipropionate or a TCP treatment, which is a combination of trimethoprim/sulf, clindamycin, and pyrimethamine. TOf you are outside of the United States treatments with diminazene aceturate might be recommended by your vet. A new treatment with azithromycin, and atovaquone is being researched, however currently very costly.

Currently, a live vaccination has been successfully used in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Israel, South Africa, and Uruguay. However, a commercial vaccination is currently not available in most countries with the exception of France and potentially other European countries. Pirodog® (Merial) is a vaccine is available that provides immunity for 5 – 8 months against a single strain of babesia bacterium. Prevention really is the key to this disease, check your pets regularly after potential exposure to ticks.


Bartonellosis is transmitted by ticks, lice and fleas and also known as Carrion’s disease, cat scratch disease or trench fever. Dogs, cats, and humans can be infected by the Bartonella bacteria. Often dogs present more symptoms than cats do. A relatively harmless disease for humans and cats unless they have a suppressed immune system. Herding and hunting dogs have a higher incidence of Bartonellosis due to their environment. Bartonellosis is found in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. There are approximately 30 Bartonella species discovered responsible for various strains of the disease. Higher rates of infected dogs can be found among stray dogs in tropical environments.

It is suspected that dogs potentially can infect humans through bites. However, most humans get infected through cats by playing and accidentally getting scratched by young cats that are carriers and might not show any symptoms.


  • Nose bleeds or nasal discharge
  • Seizures due to inflammation of the brain
  • Inflammation of eye
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Heart murmurs
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged Spleen/Liver
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Inflammation around the internal organs including the heart brain and spinal cord.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lameness
  • Sudden death

Diagnosis and treatment

When Bartonella is suspected often your veterinarian will do an IFA or PCR test to confirm the antibodies indicating the disease. However, if your dog is not showing any clinical signs of the disease the treatment might be only symptomatic with supportive care for the symptoms.

To try and minimize the chance of a resistant strain of Bartonella the CDC recommends only treatment if your dog shows any clinical signs. In some cases Bartonella disease as cleared up spontaneously over a course of weeks, months or even years. If your veterinarian does prescribe a treatment with antibiotics, the drugs of choice are, amoxicillin, doxycycline, enrofloxacin or rifampin. An extended course will be necessary anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. In severe cases, a more aggressive antibiotic treatment or longer duration are suggested, if the body doesn’t rid itself from Bartonella or if a relapse occurs.


Canine Hemoplasmosis is also known as Hemotrophic Mycoplasmosis or Haemobartonellosis. Dogs can get infected by this tick-borne disease through the brown dog tick, it will transmit the Mycoplasma bacterium into the dog’s bloodstream. However, there is also a chance of transmitting the diseases through blood transfusion, and likely, direct transmission through fighting and exchange of saliva. Lice, flies, and mosquitoes also have shown to be carriers and spread the disease. The disease has been found in Europe, the United States, and Australia, with transmittal through the tick. The infection rate of Canine Hemoplasmosis is higher among dogs that are raised in a dog kennel setting.


Many dogs will stay asymptomatic in healthy dogs. However, if clinical signs develop due to the infection this happens 3 –  5 weeks after transmission of the bacteria. But is also depending on the overall health of the dog and the stage of the infection. Dogs with a suppressed immune system or that had a splenectomy (removal of their spleen) will generally show clinical signs, whereas healthy dogs often stay asymptomatic.

    • Loss of appetite
    • Weight loss
    • Depression
    • Fever
    • Increase of appetite (a chronic form of the disease)
    • Pica (eating odd objects, seen in the chronic form of the disease)
    • Hemolytic Anema (red blood cells get prematurely destroyed)
    • Dark urine. *
    • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice) *
    • Heart murmur. *
    • Increased heart rate *
  • Enlarged liver *

* side effects of hemolytic anemia

Diagnosis and treatment

When Hemoplasmosis is suspected a blood smear might be the primary test, however, it can give a false negative due to the fluctuating pathogens in the blood. PCR is available for diagnosis of Hemoplasmosis as well and the preferred diagnostic test.

If the test results come back for Hemoplasmosis, your veterinarian will prescribe a 3-week course with antibiotics. Tetracycline, doxycycline, and oxytetracycline are often the preferred choices. Although, just like in Feline Hemoplasmosis the antibiotic treatment will probably not get rid of the infection. Some animals will require blood transfusions or other symptomatic treatments relating to the hemolytic anemia.

Often co-infections will be present in the dog from the tick bites. When a dog might be infected with Ehrlichia (which affects his immune system) and Hemoplasmosis the suppressed immune system might cause an acute version of Hemoplasmosis being much more severe in nature.

Tick-Borne Encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is another tick-borne disease, where the tick transmits the Flavivirus to the dog. TBE cases are readily increasing across Europe and Asia. There are 3 different sub types of this disease, the European, Siberian and Far Eastern subtypes. Each of these presents itself mostly by different severity of the disease. In dogs, all three subtypes are more severe than with human infections. The mortality rate of TBE among dogs is considered high. TBE is spread by the Castor Bean tick (carrier of European TBE). The Dermacentor nuttalli and the taiga tick are responsible for carrying the other two subtypes. TBE is currently not found in North or South America. Powassan virus which is one of the newer tick-borne diseases, with similarities to TBE, found in North America is closely related to the TBE strains.


Infected dogs will not always show signs of the disease but both the acute, sub-acute and chronic versions of the disease have been reported. However, as the infection almost exclusively fatal outcome in dogs, research is limited. If symptoms start showing this happens about 1-2 weeks after the initial bite.

  • Fever
  • Increased Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of balance
  • Partial or full body paralysis
  • Involuntary movement control
  • Facial paralysis
  • Different sized pupils (anisocoria)
  • Weak unstable limited movement in the front or hind legs
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Muscle soreness
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord (phase 2)
  • Thrombocytopenia (phase 2)

Diagnosis and treatment

When it is suspected that a dog might have tick-borne encephalitis, PCR, ELISA or IFA can be used to confirm the diagnosis. However, due to many dogs not showing clinical signs of TBE they are often not diagnosed in time. Subsequently, the ones that are diagnosed have limited chances of survivability.

Currently, no suggested course of treatment for dogs infected with TBE is in place. As such treatment to infected dogs tends to be symptomatic only. Often sedatives and anti-convulsing medications are prescribed for the safety of the dog and his owner. It is suspected that the use of dexamethasone could be beneficial during the mid-term course of the infection. Anti-inflammatory medications are given to help with the fever and often antibiotics will be suggested to prevent secondary infections. From the limited dogs that survived, the average recovery time is 6 – 12 months, with intensive physical therapy to rehabilitate from the neurological damage caused by the inflammation.

In Europe there are two vaccinations (Baxter and Novartis) available against TBE, licensed for use in humans. However, neither is licensed for animal use. Testing from both companies has indicated success in administering the vaccinations to various animals. This possibly will be a huge step in protecting our furry friends against the different types of TBE when traveling to endemic areas.

Tick Paralysis

From all the tick-borne diseases, tick paralysis is the only illness not caused by another organism that the tick transmits to its host. Instead, tick paralysis is caused by a neurotoxin in the saliva of the tick. The neurotoxin gets released when the tick has been attached to the animal of choice for an extended period of time.

Approximately 65 species of ticks worldwide can cause Tick paralysis.  On the eastern coast of Australia, the paralysis tick is known to cause the most severe form of this tick-borne disease. Mortality rates as high as 10% in dogs have been reported. Europe has multiple ticks that can cause this disease, the brown dog tick, the dog tick, castor bean tick, hedgehog tick, and the ornate dog tick. In North America, the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the AmericanTick-borne diseases - Rocky mountain wood tick Female dog tick are most likely to cause Tick Paralysis. The deer tick also known as the black-legged tick, Lone star tick, brown dog tick, and the spinose ear tick has been reported to cause Tick Paralysis as well. In Africa, the Karoo tick and the brown paralysis tick in South Africa, The red-legged have caused the disease.


Even though commonly seen with an animal infested with ticks only one single tick can cause the paralysis. Symptoms often start showing after the tick has been attached for five to seven days and often is an engorged female.  .

  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of balance
  • Paralysis in limbs that gradually gets more severe often starting with hind legs
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate
  • Muscle weakness and loss of muscle control
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty in eating
  • Asphyxia due to respiratory muscle paralysis in severely affected animals
  • Drooling
  • Mega-esophagus
  • Respiratory failure, choking

Diagnosis and treatment

There are four stages to determine the severity of the the disease.

  • Stage 1 the dogs voice changes, they might seem a little weak but can walk and stand.
  • Stage 2 the dog can’t walk however he can still stand up.
  • Stage 3 the dog can’t stand up but still lay straight on all fours
  • Stage 4 the dog will lay on its side

In approximately 30% of the dogs that are in Stage 3 and 4, the prognosis is guarded.

As the paralysis is caused due to the toxin the tick releases, symptoms progress quickly. Although, removal of the tick often will cause relieve of the symptoms in hours depending on the dog’s response to the neurotoxin.

Diagnosis of tick paralysis is rather difficult as a complete blood count seldom will show anything specific to this tick-borne disease. Though it can rule out different causes. If tick paralysis is suspected sometimes finding a skin crater. Which is the bite of the tick that is inflamed can confirm the diagnosis. However, sometimes neither the tick or evidence of the crater can be found. Regardless, tick paralysis in areas where it is found is kept in mind when assessing the situation.

If the diagnosis or treatment is started for Tick paralysis. Your veterinarian will often make sure all ticks are removed from the dog. Normally this will improve your dog’s condition in 24-72 hours. On the other hand, not removing the ticks quickly death might occur due to respiratory failure from paralysis within 1 to 5 days. Supportive symptomatic treatments will be given as needed. Sometimes TAS will be given which is, similar to the Tetanus antitoxin. TAS should be given as early as expected for Tick paralysis and will be given through a slow drip IV to avoid an anaphylactic shock. Often a small dose of sedative like Acepromazine will be given. This will prevent the dog from getting stressed which could cause a faster progression of the paralysis and still allow the veterinarians to treat as needed. In more severe cases or highly stressed dogs mild anesthesia might be suggested so they can work on the dog and do more invasive treatment if needed. But with appropriate and speedy treatment, mortality rates are approximately 5% and prognosis can be positive.

If you find ticks on your dog remove them as soon as possible, letting them feed on the dog will increase the chance of the neurotoxin to get released in the body.

Tick-borne Relapsing Fever

Caused by the bacteria Borrelia turicatae and Borrelia hermsii, transmitted by Ornithodoros spp. ticks (a soft-bodied tick family).  Tick-borne Relapsing Fever is mostly present in the United States. For our canines, it seems to be more prevalent in Texas. Currently, this is one for the rarer tick-borne diseases out there. Due to it being rarer than other diseases, limited information is available on diagnosis and treatment for dogs.


  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Loss of body control
  • Weakness
  • Depression

Probably not always recognized and confirmed in diagnosis as the disease is similar to many other tick-borne diseases. It is assumed this illness is rather under-diagnosed. In a complete blood count, high levels of the bacteria can be seen and a low platelet count will often present. Your veterinarian will probably suggest an IFA and PCR testing confirm Tick-borne Relapsing Fever and possible co-infections with other tick-borne diseases.

Treatment has been successful when the dog gets treated with a course of doxycycline for a period of 3 – 6 weeks. Symptoms resolved relatively quickly and the dogs recovered.


Powassan is one of the tick-borne diseases that seems very similar to TBE (Tick-borne encephalitis). This is a relatively new disease. Unlike most tick-borne diseases this is actually a virus and related to the Flavivirus, and not a bacterial infection. The carriers of this virus are the hedgehog tick and black-legged or deer tick. Carrier ticks have been found in the Great Lakes and northeastern portions of the United States when ticks have are highly active outdoors spring through fall.

Most tick-borne diseases are transmitted after longer attachments 24 hours or more, however, this virus actually can be passed to its host in mere minutes.

The recorded cases of Powassan have been in humans, about a 100, in the last 10 years to the CDC. Currently, they have found people that are infected but not show any signs. From the cases where clinical signs were shown a 10% mortality rate was reported and up to 50% of the human cases reported permanent disabilities from this illness.

Very little is known what the actual course of the virus would be in animals. However, there have been suspected cases of wildlife, Squirrels, Woodchucks and chipmunks These cases have shown similar clinical signs to humans and the animals were infected with this virus.  Which can cause neurological disabilities that could be permanent. Notably, current research has not shown Powassan to be a threat to pets, based on an experiment where they tried infecting cats with the virus. However, this does not mean an animal can’t get infected. The pets could be virus carriers who are not showing clinical signs. In such, they are not diagnosed or tested for Powassan. Possibly the virus has not mutated sufficiently but could pose a threat to our pets in the future.

Please note, this section will be updated as necessary when more research is released.


No current list of accurate symptoms

Diagnosis and treatment

No current treatment

Final word

Using a good tick and flea prevention program can limit the chances of your dog contracting a tick-borne disease. If your dog happens to get ticks on his body, quick removal of ticks are important to limit transmission of these illnesses. Don’t wait till the ticks fall off on their own can make the difference in life or death of your beloved pet. Not only that you can prevent being bitten yourself and contracting some of these diseases. Please thoroughly check your pet and yourself after walking in tick prevalent areas. There are a lot of remedies and products available as we listed in our Tick repellent article. Having a prevention program in place will help your dog, yourself and your family. Even though on a small scale, you help prevent spreading disease-carrying ticks to other locations. Some countries and even certain states in the US have very strict rules on bringing pets into their environment. Not because of the pets but trying to limit the risk of spreading diseases that are not common there. Australia, United Kingdom, and in the United States, Hawaii, have specific requirements when it comes to bringing your pets with you.

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  • I just spent a half аn hour to read through this website’s content with a cup of coffee. Thank you for the different articles you guys post, very informative and great information for any dog owner.

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