Overview: Tick Borne Diseases

Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a spirochete bacteria that is transferred into the bloodstream by ticks. It is most commonly carried by the Deer Tick. The Lyme bacteria can wreak havoc on many of the body systems, however, one of the most common manifestations is a transient pain in the joints. These dogs are often a little “off”, meaning they feel lethargic, not interested in food, etc. They also often times will have a fever. Lyme disease can be a hard to treat, especially if it’s a longstanding infection (i.e. has been undiagnosed for some time).

Ehrlichia is transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick. It is a bacteria. Ehrlichia can be a tricky issue to treat as it has a large spectrum of effect. Meaning, it can be acute, subclinical or a chronic infection. Symptoms can range from a simple fever and swollen lymph nodes to respiratory issues, bleeding disorders and neurological issues. Subclinical infections are a little more tricky to detect. These often occur when the original acute phase has been undetected, which is often the case in stray dogs that are captured/readopted from tick ridden areas. These dogs are usually asymptomatic but will have low platelets on their bloodwork. Clinical Ehrlichiosis is a serious matter that usually requires hospitalization, antibiotics and potentially blood products.

Anaplasma is a bacteria that is carried by the Deer Tick and Western Black-Legged Tick. Symptoms often include lameness, joint pain, fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, similarly to Lyme disease. Certain strains of anaplasia may also cause thrombocytopenia (lack of platelets). It is treated similarly to Lyme with antibiotics. These dogs are generally the “sickest” within the first week of infection.

These diseases are all zoonotic (can be given to humans), however, they cannot be given to you by your dog! If your dog is positive for any of these diseases, you should be concerned because you have been in the same area as them, i.e. you would also be at risk!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – Benjamin Franklin

Written by Caitlin Johnston, RVT