Dog Skin Parasite: Dogs and Ticks
Table of Contents
The topic of dogs and ticks is a problem across the United States.
Ticks are small gray dots that appear on the skin and can spread from
dog to human.
There are several tick species that cause problems in dogs, wit the
Deer tick best known because of its relationship to spreading Lyme
disease. As ticks take a blood meal they become enlarged, making them
easier to spot on the skin. Not all ticks carry Lyme disease and not
all exposed dogs become ill. Problems usually occur from May through
August, but can happen on any day that is above the freezing
mark. Treatment involves removing the tick as
quickly as possible. Dogs can be protected via the use of a spot-on.
Picture of Engorged Tick on Dog Skin
By: Dr. Foster & Smith
Several types of ticks that attach to dogs. These include:
- American Dog Tick: Found
in the Eastern U.S. and the Plains
States. It can also be found on the West coast. Diseases associated
with the American Dog Tick are:
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever ((Rickettsia rickettsii): bacterial disease that causes fever, lethargy and respiratory issues such as cough
- Ehrlichiosis: bacterial disease causing lethargy, appetite loss, fever
- Babesiosis: caused by protozoa which cause jaundice/yellowing of the skin, vomiting, fever and weakness
- Tick paralysis: paralysis starts with hind legs and then causes paralysis of the chest and diaphragm. This toxin will cause death if the tick is not removed
Magnified Picture of Dog Tick
Source: American Veterinary Medical Association
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Tick (also called Wood Tick): found in the Western United States. Can cause tick paralysis (see below).
- Lone Star Tick: Found in the South, Midwest and Eastern U.S. More closely associated with human diseases.
- Gulf Coast Tick: Carries a disease called Canine Hepatozoonosis when the tick is ingested.
- Deer Tick (also called Lyme Disease Tick, Black legged Tick): Can cause tick paralysis and canine lyme disease.
- Brown Dog Tick: Found in Hawaii and throughout North America. This tick is the only kind of tick that can be found indoors such as kennels. Can carry the diseases Canine Monocytic Ehrlichiosis and Canine Babesiosis.
- Spinose Ear Tick: Found
in dry parts of the United States. This
tick does not carry disease, but can harm a dog's ear.
If you believe your dog has been bitten by a tick, watch your dog for changes in behavior (energy, appetite) over a 3 week period. If you see any change, see your veterinarian.
Dogs and ticks usually need to be attached to each other for 24 hours in order to spread Lyme disease, however disease can be spread in 5 to 20 hours. If ticks are removed sooner, then the disease will not have had time to transfer to the dog.
Canine Lyme Disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease, the disease transmitted by ticks include leg pain or lameness, which comes on suddenly. This is usually the most noticeable dog Lyme disease symptom. Other symptoms are a lost desire to eat, tiredness, cough, depression and enlarged lymph nodes. There may or may not be a ring on the skin (known as a bulls-eye rash). Lameness can last for an extended period of time. Dog kidney disease is another problem associated with Lyme disease dog. Blood tests can detect if a dog has been exposed (Western Blot, ELISA). X-Rays are also used to look at joint swelling. Dog Lyme disease treatment involves the use of antibiotics for 2 to 4 weeks.
Dog Tick Bite Paralysis
Dog tick bite paralysis is a condition that can be caused by over 20 types of ticks. It only occasionally infects dogs. It is caused by a protein neurotoxin that is produced by ticks when biting a host. It is more common during warm weather months and appears 5 to 9 days after the bite occurs. Symptoms of dog tick bite paralysis are normal temperature, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and vomiting. A dog will also have trouble walking and appear paralyzed or in a weakened condition.
As the disease progresses a dog will stop moving and find breathing difficult. If the tick is not manually removed from the body, a dog could die from the condition. After tick removal it takes a dog 1 to 3 days to fully recover. A veterinarian can diagnose the disorder based on the clinical symptoms (paralysis).
Video On Removing Ticks From Dogs
For more information see our guide to dog tick removal.
Dog Tick Prevention
There are collars and spot-ons such as Frontline (fipronil) available for tick prevention. Other steps are to keep grass in yards short or to remove it all together. There are several insecticides available for outdoor tick control.
References for Dogs and Ticks
External Parasitic Diseases of Dogs and Cats
P.A. Payne1, M. W. Dryden2 and G.R. Carter3
Department of Diagnostic Medicine-Pathobiology
College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, KS, USA
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