The Tick and Mosquito Project


What Diseases Can Dogs Get From Ticks?

Can my dog get diseases from ticks? Yes. It is a question we get often.

While human tick-borne illnesses are the original reason we started creating all this content, the fact is that pets can get sick from ticks too. Given that pets are more prone to walking in tick habitat, and can’t easily pull ticks off themselves, it actually can be a pretty big risk.

We did a piece on how to prevent ticks in dogs and pets, but for now we want to focus on the diseases that ticks can give your dogs.

Overview of Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs

Tick-borne diseases should be a significant concern for pet owners in the United States, especially those in heavier tick areas. Ticks are notorious vectors for so many infections,

tick range map
credit: Animal Doctor of Weston

and they have been associated with more pathogens than any other bloodsucking arthropod except mosquitoes. Companion animals like our dogs have always suffered from tick infestations, but as veterinary medicine advances, signs and symptoms of disease that may have been missed before are now being detected.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is one of the most well-known tick-borne diseases in dogs. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to dogs by the bite of infected black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. A dog with lyme disease will be lame and un-energetic, and will likely lose its appetite. In severe cases, it can lead to kidney failure and death.


Ehrlichiosis is another tick-borne disease that affects dogs. It is caused by the bacterium Ehrlichia canis, which is transmitted to dogs by the brown dog tick. Symptoms of ehrlichiosis in dogs can include fever, bleeding disorders, weight loss and loss of appetite. In serious cases, it can be fatal.


Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. It is transmitted to dogs by the black-legged tick and the western black-legged tick. A dog with anaplasmosis can be lethargic, not eat, and appear achy. It can be fatal.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a severe tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. It is transmitted to dogs by the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, and the Rocky Mountain wood tick. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, anorexia, and joint pain. Fatalities can occur.


Babesiosis is a tick-borne disease caused by the protozoan Babesia canis. It is transmitted to dogs by the brown dog tick. Symptoms of babesiosis in dogs can include many of the others listed – fever, lethargy – but you will maybe notice that your dog appears jaundice too.

It is important for pet owners to be able to spot signs and symptoms of tick-borne diseases in dogs, especially if they have been outside in tick habitat and to take steps to prevent tick infestations. Regular tick checks and the use of tick preventatives can help reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases in dogs. If a dog shows signs of illness after a tick bite, don’t self-diagnose; see a vet instead.

Tick Bites and Attached Ticks

One simple thing you can do after being out with your dog in tick habitat is to examine your pet’s skin and fur. Ticks are most commonly found in areas with little hair, such as thetick on dog ears, armpits, and groin. They are usually dark brown or black and can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a grape if they have become engorged.

If you find a tick on your dog, remove it promptly and correctly. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull it straight out with a slow, steady motion. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick, as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin, increasing the risk of infection. Try not to squeeze the ticks body, as you could press some of its saliva into your pet.

After removing the tick, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Keep an eye on the area for the next few weeks and contact a veterinarian if you notice any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge.

Preventing tick bites is the best way to protect your dog from tick-borne diseases. Use tick preventatives, such as collars, sprays, or topical treatments, and avoid areas where ticks are prevalent, such as tall grasses and wooded areas. Regular grooming and bathing can also help remove any ticks before they have a chance to attach to your pet.

Treatment Options

If you suspect your dog might have had a tick bite and is showing signs of lethargy, fever, or other symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Because ticks carry so many pathogens, an illness after a known tick attachment is suspicious.

Thevet dog tick veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection. It is important to follow the prescribed treatment plan and give the medication as directed to ensure the best possible outcome for the dog.

In addition to antibiotics, there are other treatment options available depending on the specific disease and its severity. For example, if the dog has anemia due to tick-borne disease, a blood transfusion may be necessary. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required for supportive care.

If your dog had a tick bite but is not showing symptoms of illness, monitor it. The majority of tick bites do not transmit disease, so simply having an attached tick is not reason to go straight to a vet.

It is important to note that home remedies and over-the-counter treatments should not be used as a substitute for veterinary care. These treatments may not be effective and can even be harmful to the dog. Seeking professional veterinary care is the best course of action for treating tick-borne diseases in dogs.

Prevention and Control

Preventing and controlling tick infestations in dogs is crucial for their health and well-being. Here are some measures that can be taken to prevent and control tick infestations:

  • Regular grooming: Regular grooming of dogs can help detect ticks early and prevent them from attaching to the skin. Brushing the coat regularly can also help remove any ticks that may be present.
  • Tick prevention products: Using tick prevention products such as collars, sprays, and spot-on treatments can help prevent ticks from attaching to dogs. These productsdog shampoo tick usually contain chemicals that repel or kill ticks.
  • Tick checks: Regularly checking dogs for ticks after outdoor activities can help detect and remove ticks before they attach to the skin. Paying close attention to areas such as the ears, neck, and paws is important as ticks tend to attach to these areas. Use your hands to feel for any lumps or bumps under the dog’s fur that don’t seem natural.
  • Environmental control: Keeping the environment clean and tidy can help prevent tick infestations. Removing leaf litter, keeping grass short, and avoiding areas with high vegetation can reduce the chances of ticks being present.
  • Vaccination: Vaccinating dogs against tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease can help prevent the diseases from developing if a tick does attach to the skin.

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