Flea and tick infestations are one of the most common problems pets face throughout their lifetime. These parasitic nightmares are on the rise from late spring through early fall. Even though flea and tick preventions abound, they are not 100% effective. Most pets will suffer a bite from them at some point during their lives.
Even treated pets suffer tick bites. These arachnids (ticks are not insects) feed on blood and can cause allergic reactions. If a tick bites your dog, it can cause a bump that will last a few days. You should monitor the bump carefully and consult your veterinarian if it persists.
If a tick bites your dog, keep the tick after removal in case you need to have it tested for disease later. When you spot a tick on your pet, remove it right away. Use tweezers or special tick-removing equipment if you have access to it. Various tick removal kits available online can be a good investment if you live in areas with a large tick population.
Slide the tweezers or hook under the tick’s body, use a steady, firm motion and slowly pull the tick straight back from your dog. Pulling too quickly or at an angle can cause the tick’s head to separate from its body. The head will stay attached while you remove the body. If your dog has long or thick fur, you must be patient and take your time.
After removing the tick, place it in a Ziploc bag and store it in the refrigerator until your next vet visit. Use soap and water to disinfect the tick bite. Avoid using alcohol as it can be too harsh for your pet’s skin.
If you are uncertain that you will be able to remove the tick, it is best to have your veterinarian do it. A common experience when many pet parents try to remove a tick is that the head stays attached. If the tick’s head stays in your pet’s fur, it can cause infections and abscesses. If it is difficult to remove the tick, consult your veterinarian immediately if you spot a tick on your dog.
If you cannot remove the tick head easily, don’t keep picking at it. It may burrow in deeper, making it more difficult for your veterinarian to remove. You also run the risk of a bacterial infection.
Tick bites often leave a small bump on your dog, which is called a “granuloma.” They usually occur as a reaction to tick saliva. Some dogs are allergic to tick saliva and can also develop a reaction when bitten. However, bumps caused by a tick bite are usually harmless and do not last longer than a few weeks. An antibiotic or anti-itch ointment on the tick bite helps speed the recovery.
If you notice inflammation, this is completely normal as well. The area where the tick bit your dog may become swollen, form a pink or red ring, or become scabbed. You should only be concerned if the bump is weeping and doesn’t seem to be getting better.
The longer a tick has stayed on your dog’s skin, the higher the chance of it passing diseases or causing an infection. If the bump caused by the tick’s bite appears larger than before, your dog could have an infection. The bump will ooze pus, and your dog might have a fever and be lethargic. Consult your veterinarian about the right antibiotics for the condition.
If the tick has burrowed in your pet’s fur for a long time, it could have passed any diseases it carried to your pet. The most common tick-borne diseases that affect dogs include Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, Bartonellosis, and Hepatozoonosis.
1. Lyme Disease
The Black-Legged Tick (better-known as the Deer Tick) carries Borrelia bacteria responsible for causing Lyme disease. While black-legged ticks were previously common in the upper Midwest and Northeast United States, they spread to the West Coast and Florida. If the tick is attached to your pet for 36-48 hours, the likelihood of passing Lyme disease to your pet is greater. Symptoms generally occur 2-5 months after exposure to ticks.
Lyme disease symptoms include fever, lameness, joint pain, swelling of joints, lymph node enlargement, and lethargy. Lyme disease can also progress to kidney disease.
The diagnosis of Lyme disease involves blood tests. For treatment, vets usually prescribe antibiotics for a month. A vaccine is also available for Lyme’s disease, so it is best to have your pet vaccinated around the summer months. Consult your veterinarian to learn more about the vaccine and vaccination process.
Ehrlichiosis is transmissible by various ticks, including the Brown Dog Tick, the Lone Star Tick, and the American Dog Tick. It is found worldwide, and symptoms tend to show 1-3 weeks after a tick bite. Symptoms include fever, poor appetite, and low blood platelet count. Since platelets are low, dogs can experience nose bleeding and signs of anemia such as bruising. When treated promptly, dogs infected with Ehrlichiosis recover and regain their health. However, if the condition is left untreated, recovery can become difficult.
The Black-Legged and Brown Dog Tick carry Ixodes bacteria responsible for Anaplasmosis. The two types of Anaplosmis bacteria are Anaplosmis phagocytophilum and Anaphlosmis platys. Both types cause infections of varying severity, with the latter causing a less severe infection. The symptoms of Anaplosmis are similar to Lyme Disease but last 1 to 7 days. Dogs with a mild infection might show no symptoms at all.
The additional symptom of Anaplosmis is the loss of blood platelets, the cells responsible for blood clotting. Animals suffering from Anaplosmis may show nose bleeding and anemia-like symptoms. Dogs with Anaplosmis require prompt treatment with antibiotics. Many dogs still test positive for the disease after recovering completely.
4. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain Spotted fever is a well-known tick-borne disease affecting dogs and humans. Three types of ticks carry this disease: the Deer Tick, the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick, and the Brown Dog Tick. If your dog has exposure to wooded areas or your area has a higher tick population, your dog can contract Rocky Mountain Spotted fever easily. It is important to have a robust preventive regimen in that case.
Rocky Mountain Spotted fever symptoms include fever, unspecified joint pain, poor appetite, and swollen lymph nodes. Some dogs even experience loss of platelets and neurological symptoms such as wobbliness. To diagnose the condition, veterinarians use blood tests, urinalysis, and possibly even X-rays.
The Deer Tick carries the bacteria responsible for Babesiosis. This disease is transmissible between animals. For example, a dog with oral lesions can transmit the infection by biting another dog. Pit bull terriers are especially prone to Babesiosis.
Dogs infected with Babesiosis can show signs of varying severity, ranging from hemolysis (a condition where the body destroys its red blood cells) to an infection that progresses slowly with no apparent clinical signs. The main treatment for Babesiosis involves antibiotics. You will need to consult your veterinarian about the appropriate medicine and dosage.
Bartonellosis is the bacterial infection caused by Bartonella bacteria. It is more common in cats and kittens than in dogs, which can also transmit the infection to humans. While cats suffering from Bartonellosis show few symptoms, dogs suffering from it have more clinical symptoms. Since the disease rarely occurs in dogs, there is no evidence that they can transmit it to humans.
Bartonellosis causes a severe infection, with symptoms such as fever, cardiac arrhythmias, endocarditis, and myocarditis. These symptoms can be life-threatening because they affect the heart’s functions.
Hepatozoonotis is different from the above illnesses because dogs normally develop it after eating a tick. It is not transmissible from dogs to humans. Gulf Coast ticks carry the organism responsible for the transmission of this disease. Another way an animal can contract Hepatozoonotis is by eating a rodent or bird infected by the organism.
Hepatozoon americanum generally travels to the intestine of the dog. It then spreads to other organs of the body through the blood. As it matures and reproduces, it can cause large cysts that lead to inflammation in various parts of the body. The condition is very painful.
Many dogs are allergic to tick saliva and develop symptoms of allergy when bitten by a tick. Clinical signs of a tick allergy include:
- Swelling and redness in the area of the bite
- Swollen face
- Difficulty breathing
Treatment options for a tick allergy depend on the severity of the immune response.
Knowing how harmful a tick bite can be for your dog, you probably want to prevent them from coming in contact with your pet. You should take precautions to prevent a tick infection regardless of where you live.
Start using tick ointments or invest in a flea and tick collar at the start of summer. Flea and tick collars protect against fleas and ticks for several months. Opting for a flea collar with natural ingredients such as essential oils is best.