Ticks are more than just creepy; they can spread a number of different diseases that affect both pets and people, and with changes in weather patterns, we are seeing the host ranges for these diseases expanding. Ticks can transmit microorganisms that cause Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, hepatozoonosis, and babesiosis and no prevention is 100% effective 100% of the time. So what can you do to protect your pets and your family from tick-borne diseases? Learn the risks below, then about the importance of annual testing, and see more about parasite screening and prevention at Beware the Bug.
Canine ehrlichiosis is a relatively new disease and comes in multiple forms that are often specific to different U.S. regions. The disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Ehrlichia, which can affect multiple species including people and cats. Learn more about different forms of ehrlichiosis or see the number of reported cases in dogs in your area.
Canine anaplasmosis can be found throughout the United States, primarily in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central states, as well as California. Caused by a bacteria transmitted from ticks that have previously bitten host animals such as deer and rodents , anaplasmosis can cause joint pain, high fever, and more. Find out more about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of canine anaplasmosis or see the number of reported cases of canine anaplasmosis in your area.
The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is transmitted by two types of ticks – the Western black-legged tick and the deer tick – and can affect dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes. The geographic range of Lyme disease is expanding and is now found in more U.S. states and some Canadian provinces. Ticks are often hard to spot, making it incredibly difficult to spot a tick bite, and symptoms of Lyme disease are often difficult to detect until several months after infection. Learn more about Lyme disease and the importance of protecting your pet or see the number of reported Lyme disease cases in dogs in your area.
Despite its name, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is found throughout the U.S. and Canada. This infection can appear suddenly, with severe illness that can be life threatening if not diagnosed quickly. Find out what to watch for and how it’s diagnosed.
This tick-borne disease is caused by a blood parasite that infects a dog’s red blood cells. Dogs can become infected when feeding ticks pass the microscopic parasites, known as Babesia, to them. Like other tick-borne diseases, symptoms are often vague and sometimes difficult to identify. Learn more about signs, symptoms, and treatment of babesiosis.
Unlike other vector-borne diseases that are transmitted by tick bite, both forms of canine hepatozoonosis are transmitted when a dog eats or otherwise ingests an infected tick. Like other tick-borne diseases, symptoms are difficult to detect, but can include loss of appetite, weight loss, and depression. Learn more about canine hepatozoonosis from our sister site, Dogs and Ticks.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
How do ticks infect humans?
Ticks feed on the blood of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals—including people—throughout their various life stages. If a host animal has a blood-borne infection, the tick can ingest that pathogen during its blood meal. When the tick attaches to a human, that infection-causing bacterium, virus, or parasite can be passed along as the little bloodsucker engorges its body with your blood.
“Ticks are dirty, and they really do have a lot of bugs,” Christine Green, MD, a family physician in Mountain View, California, and a member of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s scientific advisory board, tells Health.
Here are several common, emerging, and rare-but-concerning tick-borne infections you should know about.
For Additional Information
CDC Tick Website
Offers comprehensive information about tick geographic distribution, life cycle and hosts, and diseases transmitted suggestions for avoiding ticks on people, pets, and in the yard instructions for removal and a listing of symptoms of tick-related illness in people. This site has easy navigation and good use of graphics and photos.
MSU VDL Tick-Borne Disease Diagnostics
The MSU VDL can perform the following tests: Anaplasma phagocytophilum IFA, Anaplasama PCR, Babesia canis IFA, Babesia gibsoni IFA, Babesia spp PCR, Ehrlichia canis IFA, Ehrlichia PCR, Equine Tick Core Panel, Lyme IFA, Lyme PCR, Rickettsia rickettsii IFA, Rickettsia PCR, Tick-Borne Disease Antibody Screen, Tick Identification, and Tick PCR. For more details on these or other tests, please see our catalog of available tests.
Warming Weather May Bring Unanticipated Consequences for Pet Owners
The return of more pleasant weather and warmer, longer days brings with it the promise of greater outdoor activities. Of course, we are not the only one looking forward to spending more time outdoors. Pet owners know many of their companions will also be happy to spend more time out and about.
Unfortunately, there are a number of pests and diseases that pets may pick up as they romp around outdoors. Worse yet, there are a number of infections that can be spread from pets to people. Infectious diseases of an animal that can be transmitted to humans are known as zoonoses.
Some zoonoses are transmitted directly from animals to humans – such as through bites and saliva as in the case of rabies. Other infections are transmitted via intermediate species, or vectors, such as ticks and Lyme disease.
With our pet cats and dogs, the greatest risks are from pests like fleas and ticks, both because of the relative frequency with which they are picked up and the infections that they can transmit.