Most pet owners realize that a tick bite can leave a pet with the debilitating effects of joint inflammation caused by Lyme Disease. But, few realize that another tick-borne illness, called tick fever, can also cause serious medical problems for pets. Tick fever, or Ehrlichiosis, is carried by ticks that is common to most parts of our nation. The organism is within the bacterial family rickettsia. This organism thrives and can multiply within the living cells of your pet.
There are two very common forms of the rickettsia organism – one is carried by the Brown Dog tick and is common to the West Coast and Eastern states – Ehrlichia canis. Another common form is transmitted by the Lone Star tick found mostly in the Eastern and South Central U.S – Ehrlichia ewingii.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers helpful guidelines for avoiding tick-borne disease in both pets and humans, and also states that “dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and to some tick borne diseases. They may also bring ticks into your home. Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your dog.”
Which Pets Can Get Tick Fever?
While some ticks feed on a wide range of pets, Brown Dog tick and the Lone Star tick are found on dogs. Often these ticks will attach to your pet while walking in woodland areas, grassy meadows, or areas along river banks and streams. While these ticks may have a preference for canine blood, they will also bite and feed off humans and other animals.
These pests are three-host ticks. After one feeding they will usually drop from the host before they enter the next stage of development from egg to larvae, and finally as mature adults. It is not uncommon for a female tick to lay thousands of eggs on the surfaces they inhabit.
Symptoms and Treatment of Tick Fever
Your pet will likely go through three distinct phases of the tick fever illness. In the early, acute phase, your dog may have a low-grade fever, bruising, and joint pain. Following this phase the tick may lie dormant and your pet may not show any symptoms for many months. Finally, the dog will enter a chronic stage of illness, characterized by eye inflammation, lameness, tender abdomen, internal bleeding, and neurological issues.
Seek the medical help of your local veterinarian to treat tick fever in dogs. While diagnosis is difficult in the early stages of the disease, in the chronic phase a blood test to determine platelet count is performed. Also, consideration of your pet’s symptoms and possible environmental exposure to ticks can help in diagnosis and a treatment plan.
Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, your veterinarian will seek different treatment options. Early phase treatments are very effective and may include antibiotics such as Doxycycline and Tetracycline. Within 2-3 days, your pet should be improving well.
Preventing Tick Infestation in Pets
- The single most important step to preventing tick borne disease is preventing the tick from biting and transmitting the infection. New oral tick preventations are very effective in stopping this process and keeping your dog safe.
- Treat your lawn and house with a tick treatment periodically. There are granules and sprays, along with natural options such as Diatomaceous Earth that are effective in ridding your home of fleas and ticks.
- Spot check you pets periodically for ticks, especially after walking in wooded areas or parks. Remove any ticks you find on your dog’s skin.
- Keep your home’s landscape groomed with short grass, trimmed bushes, and eliminate accumulated vegetation and debris from your yard
For further information on treatments for tick fever, contact University Animal Hospital.