Tickborne Disease in Animals 

Dogs and Cats

Tickborne diseases pose a hazard to animal companions. These diseases are usually transmitted through tick bites, but skin contact with the internal fluids of infected ticks also poses a risk of infection. Dogs and cats are especially vulnerable to tickborne diseases because of time spent in tick-infested environments. Most tickborne diseases can be treated, especially if recognized early in the disease.  Preventing tick bites is the single most important step in preventing tickborne diseases.  People do not get tickborne diseases from their pets, but rather directly from the tick bite.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF):  In dogs, the first sign observed is usually a high fever, occurring 4-5 days after a bite from an infected tick. This disease can progress rapidly in dogs, showing symptoms in the eyes, lymph nodes and central nervous system.  As in people, RMSF can be fatal in dogs.

Ehrlichiosis:  Dogs can get Ehrlichia canis, E. ewingii and E. chaffeensis, but E. canis is the most severe.  This is a different Ehrlichia bacterium than people.  In dogs, the symptoms can be fever, eyes with redness and discharge, depression, stiff and sore, and bleeding episodes. 

Tularemia:  Dogs can be affected by tularemia, but it is seen more commonly in cats.  The signs observed may be mild and nonspecific, or more severe with fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and not eating. Cats can acquire Tularemia from hunting and eating rabbits, as well as from ticks.

Horses

To protect horses from tickborne disease, consult your veterinarian, but basic guidelines include:

  • Apply topical insect repellent products. It is likely you will have to reapply the products regularly, especially if you are traveling through areas with high insect activity.
  • If possible, limit access to tick-infested areas.
  • Check horses frequently for ticks or, at a minimum, at the end of each day's activities. The ticks should be promptly and carefully removed, using the same guidelines as posted above for tick removal from human skin. Be sure to check the tail, mane and ears thoroughly for ticks.

Preventing Ticks on Pets

Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tickborne diseases. Vaccines are not available for all the tickborne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it’s important to use a tick preventive product on your dog. 

Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tickborne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.

To reduce the chances that a tick will transmit disease to you or your pets:

  • Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
  • If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tickborne diseases in your area.
  • Reduce tick habitat in your yard.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet. 

 Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any pesticides or repellents to your cats without first consulting your veterinarian.