Tick fever in dogs is caused by the Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria which is spread through the bite of an infected tick. In today's post our Huntersville vets share some of the symptoms of tick fever in dogs, and how the condition can be treated.
What is tick fever?
Tick fever is a condition seen in dogs that is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii. In the US this intracellular parasite is spread through the bite of an infected American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, or brown dog tick. Once your dog has been bitten by an infected tick transmission of the bacteria can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 hours to occur.
Although people are also susceptible to tick fever there are no reported cases of direct dog to human transmissions. That said, pet parents need to be careful when removing ticks from their pet since people can become infected following contact with tick blood or excretions while removing engorged ticks from their pets.
Tick fever is not contagious between dogs however an infected tick may move from one pet to another spreading the disease.
How do I know if my dog has tick fever?
It can take up to 14 days after infection for your dog to begin to show signs of the disease. Common symptoms of tick fever in dogs tend to be vague and varied in nature making a diagnosis of the condition challenging. If your dog has contracted tick fever you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- High fever around 105°F
- Reduced appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint inflammation
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Facial or limb swelling
- Breathing difficulties
- Abdominal pain
Severe cases of tick fever may result in purplish-red spots inside of the eyelids and mouth caused by bleeding below the skin's surface. In some cases, dogs will also experience central nervous system symptoms such as:
- Altered mental states
- Impaired balance
- Painful spinal sensitivity
If your dog is showing any of the signs of tick fever listed above book a veterinary exam for your dog right away, Tick fever can be life-threatening.
How is tick fever in dogs diagnosed?
Your vet will begin by examining your dog for any sign of the symptoms listed above, and may perform a series of tests such as blood tests, urinalysis, or x-rays.
Results of blood tests that point to a diagnosis of tick fever include low platelet count, anemia, and abnormal white blood cell counts. Other diagnostic tests may be used to detect low protein levels, abnormal calcium levels, electrolyte abnormalities, and abnormal liver or kidney values which can result from tick fever.
What is the treatment for tick fever in dogs?
When it comes to tick fever any delay in treatment could cause symptoms to become increasingly severe and possibly even fatal. That's why antibiotics are often prescribed for dogs suspected of having tick fever, even before test results have come back.
Many dogs show an improvement in symptoms as soon as 24 to 48 hours after beginning antibiotic treatment, although dogs with severe cases of the disease may not respond to treatment at all. Antibiotics commonly used to treat tick fever in dogs include tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline.
Blood transfusions to treat anemia, or supportive therapies to address other symptoms may also be recommended for your dog.
What is the prognosis for dogs with tick fever?
Early diagnosis and treatment can mean that your dog will recover well with few complications. However, dogs with more advanced cases of tick fever face a higher risk for complications such as kidney disease, neurological disease, vasculitis, and coagulopathies, leading to a more guarded prognosis since complications can be severe.
Can tick fever be prevented?
Preventing tick fever is a matter of controlling your dog's contact with infected ticks. Year-round preventive medications from your vet can help to kill ticks that begin feeding on your pet, and examining your dog for ticks each time you return home from a walk can help to prevent the transmission of the bacteria.
Ticks found on your pup should be properly removed as soon as possible. Contact your vet to learn how to remove ticks safely from your pet.