Guild of Shepherds & Collies

9 Dangerous Diseases Ticks Can Give Your Dog

Here are 9 of the 16 Diseases Ticks Can Give Your Dog

diseases ticks can give

Running through the muck is part of any herding breed dog’s DNA. You may spoil him with a good brushing and decide on a tidy walk around the neighborhood—but your dog has a different plan. Once outside, he’s drawn like a magnet to rugged terrain and overgrown habitat. Extreme herders can find wilderness inside a potted plant. Even worse, this dog will lie right down in the middle of the jungle he just tramped down. 

This is where the tick sidles in.

While your dog was herding real - or imaginary - sheep in thickets of grass, the tick was calculating his next meal. Ticks do not fly or jump, nor do they catapult themselves from tree branches. They are too small and perhaps too intelligent for such nonsense. Ticks utilize a behavior termed “questing,” which means that they crawl to the top of brush or grass, usually along worn pathways where animals and humans trod, and wait for their next host. When your dog (or you) bumps into a tick depot, the tick climbs aboard and heads for the dining car as if they were a small hobo.

Hopefully you have not gotten personal enough with a tick to notice that is has eight legs. Indeed, it is a member of the arachnid family. This is a useful tool in identification—ticks have eight legs, while other insects have six. There are many types of ticks, but all subsist on animal blood. Once they attach themselves to the outside of the animal, they use their piercing, sucking mouth-type parts to burrow into the flesh and have lunch. Because they parasitize from the outside (rather than internally), they are called ectoparasites.

Ticks are voracious. After just one blood meal, a tick can balloon to double its original size. When it has had its fill, the tick will scuttle off to molt or lay eggs—so if you find one connected to your dog, you can assume that it is actively consuming blood. Some ticks are described as “three-host” ticks. These types of ticks require three blood meals from three hosts in order to complete necessary developmental stages.  Despite the ‘ick’ factor, catching a tick while it is still attached to your dog is a lucky find. You can safely remove the tick and destroy it before it lays eggs. More importantly, however, you can keep an eye on your dog for signs of disease or infection.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are nine types of ticks that live in various parts of the United States. No matter where you live or travel, you’re bound to find a species of tick. Not all ticks carry disease, and it is worth stating, that the transmission of disease generally requires prolonged feeding time. This is important to remember when you feel like putting off a “body check” for your scheduled grooming session—better to be on the safe side and check your dog as soon as possible.

Speaking of disease, ticks are not the cleanest of sorts. In fact, the idea of a tick infestation should have you shaking in your boots and calling an exterminator. Ticks are capable of carrying and transmitting 16 different diseases, many of which can be very dangerous and even life-threatening.  Below is a list of the most common diseases that may affect your dog.

American canine hepatozoonosis (ACH) Unlike the typical tick-borne disease, ACH is contracted when the dog ingests an infected tick. The infection can be fatal and involves high fever, muscle wasting and lack of appetite, along with discharge from the dog’s eyes. Treatment is available, but recovery may be difficult.

Babesiosis (Piroplasmosis) This disease occurs when ticks transmit a protozoan organism that invades the dog’s red blood cells. This disorder causes anemia, fever, pale gums, and in extreme cases the dog may collapse and go into shock.

Tularemia Also known as rabbit fever, this is caused by a bacteria. Dogs are generally able to recover from this disease, but they may show signs of fever, reduced appetite, and lack of energy. Antibiotics are used to treat tularemia.

Haemobartonellosis This disorder is spread by both ticks and fleas, and leads to anemia and general weakness. Untreated, it may develop into heart or liver disease. Antibiotics are used to treat this disorder.

Tick Paralysis Ticks exude a toxin which can affect the nervous system. Sensitive animals will display signs about a week after being bitten. Symptoms include muscle weakness in the limbs, progressing to diminished capacity to swallow and breathe. Death may result. An antitoxin is available.

Canine Anaplasmosis Caused by a bacteria, this condition results in joint pain, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and nervous system disorders. Infected dogs begin to show symptoms a few weeks after the initial bite. Antibiotics are useful for anaplasmosis.

Ehrlichiosis This disorder results in reduced appetite, fever, and painful, stiff joints. Antibiotics are used to treat this condition.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) This disorder ranges from fever, lameness, vomiting, and diarrhea to pneumonia, kidney and liver damage, and seizures. Antibiotics are used to treat RMSF.

Lyme Disease (borreliosis) Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. The tick must be attached to the dog for at least 48 hours to transmit the bacteria. Removing the tick before that time has elapsed significantly lessens the chances of transmission. Symptoms include fever, lameness, swollen joints and lymph glands. Severe reactions include heart and kidney disease and nervous system disorders. Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease. There is currently a vaccine available for dogs.

If you find a tick on your dog, you or your vet will need to remove it. If you are planning on braving the blood-sucking spider yourself, then you will need a few tools: a pair of gloves, tweezers, a container for the tick, antiseptic to clean the bite area on your dog and isopropyl alcohol to clean the tweezers and kill the tick.

Before you begin, it is best to have someone hold your dog so that you can pull the tick out cleanly. With the tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible and pull the tick straight outward from the skin. Make sure to do this in a steady manner so that you get the entire tick out. A portion of the tick left in your dog’s skin may lead to an infection.

It is important to keep the tick – your veterinarian and veterinary clinic may decide to test the tick or determine the species in the event your dog begins to display symptoms of a tick-borne disease. Place a bit of the isopropyl alcohol in the container along with the tick. Cover and label it with the date.

Use the antiseptic to clean your dog at the wound area. Clean the tweezers with the isopropyl alcohol. Keep an eye on your dog over the next month or so and make sure that the wound remains free of infection.

For those of you who are besieged by ticks on a regular basis, there are inexpensive tick-removing tools that may make the job go a little more smoothly. When it comes to prevention, you may want to visit your local veterinary clinic and discuss your options with your veterinarian. Because many herding dogs have MDR1 sensitivity, it is best to stay away from over-the-counter products.

Ticks are a danger to all dogs, but with the herding breed dog’s thick coat and determined drive to inhabit nature, they’re a tick target. For this reason, it is important to be vigilant with your dog. Thoroughly check him for ticks after each outdoor romp. Ticks are usually brown or black. Since ticks can be anywhere from as small as a pin to as large as a peanut, you may have to really search for them—particularly if they are partially submerged. It is best to use your hands so that you can get your tools and safely remove them.

Ticks are more prevalent during warmer weather, but they are active whenever the temperature is above freezing. Additionally, there is some evidence that tick populations, as well as bites, are increasing because of global weather changes. Ticks are small, but mighty, so always be watchful of your dog and his behavior. Make sure you know the company he is keeping and the ground he has covered.  Don’t discourage him from his joyful trailblazing; just give him a thorough “petting” when he finally finds his way home.

Article By:
Andrea Peck



California Master Gardener Handbook, Publication 3382.University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Tick-Borne Diseases and Your Pet, PetMD, 2016.

Tick-Borne Diseases of the United States, A Reference Manual for Health Care Providers, third edition, 2015.

Getting a Tick off of your Dog, The Humane Society of the United States.


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