Ticks are a vector for diseases: As ticks bite one host after another, diseases can spread to pets, humans, and other hosts. While Lyme disease is the most well known of the tick-borne illnesses, ticks can also carry other diseases that may cause harm to you or your pet.
- Transmitted by deer ticks, Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria; left untreated, the disease can cause lameness, joint pains, and kidney problems. In the initial stages, symptoms include fevers, lethargy, and skin rashes. Lyme disease affects both people and animals, and can be treated with antibiotics.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Bacteria cause this disease, which can affect both humans and dogs. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is carried by American dog and lone star ticks—pets and humans bit by a tick carrying this disease may develop a rash and fever may develop. Don’t be fooled by the name: Ticks carrying this illness can live throughout the United States. Most commonly, cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are reported between the months of May and October; the disease can be treated with antibiotics.
- Toxins within a tick's saliva are capable of causing paralysis to dogs, and more rarely, to cats. Initially a pet’s legs will get weak, but if untreated, the paralysis can spread to the torso. Tick paralysis is associated with the Rocky Mountain wood tick and American dog tick. Removing the tick will generally resolve tick paralysis; if the tick is not removed promptly, tick paralysis can be fatal.
- This disease is far more common in dogs than in cats, and is caused by a small organism transmitted by the brown dog tick. Antibiotics can generally resolve this disease, although if it progresses to a chronic stage, it can become incurable. Symptoms include lethargy, fever, and discharge.
- This disease, spread by the brown dog and American dog tick, can impact both cats and dogs, although it’s more commonly seen in dogs. Puppies tend to get the disease more frequently, and with more extreme symptoms. The major symptoms of babesiosis are lethargy, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes, although cats often show no symptoms. While this disease can be treated with antibiotics, some dogs become carriers, capable of infecting ticks and further spreading the disease.
- Also known as rabbit fever, Tularemia can affect dogs and cats. Symptoms include lethargy, fever, appetite loss, and enlarged lymph nodes. It’s difficult to diagnose tularemia, but cases caught early can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
- This potentially lethal disease attacks cats only; dogs and humans are not impacted. As with other tick-caused diseases, the symptoms are typically lethargy and a fever. If caught early, cytauxzoonosis can be treated, although the fatality rate is quite high in general.
Pay close attention if your pet becomes enervated or runs a fever after a tick bite or being outside during tick season—these are common symptoms of many tick-borne illnesses. While not all tick bites lead to diseases, bites should be treated very seriously and ticks should be removed promptly from pets.
You can also protect your pets with flea and tick prevention medications such as K9 Advantix or Frontline Plus.