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Beyond Rabies: Two Other Tick-Borne Illnesses That Affect Dogs

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When you think of ticks and the dangers they present to your dog, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Most people think of Lyme disease. Surely, Lyme disease is an important concern when it comes to ticks. But it's not the only disease that ticks can pass on to your canine companion. As a responsible dog owner, it's important for you to know about these other tick-borne illnesses.


Tularemia is a bacterial infection that is most common in Arkansas and Missouri, though it is found throughout most parts of the country. The disease can be passed to your dog by the American dog tick, the Lone Star tick, or the Rocky Mountain wood tick among other tick species. What's really dangerous about tularemia is that once your dog is infected, he can pass tularemia on to you or your family members.

Signs of tularemia include sudden onset of fever, lethargy, a tender abdomen, white patches on the tongue, yellowing of the eyes (jaundice), lack of appetite and dehydration. If your dog has been bitten by a tick and begins showing symptoms of tularemia, contact your vet immediately. Minimize contact with your dog by wearing gloves when you handle him or his food. Your vet will conduct a blood test, and if your dog is diagnosed with tularemia, antibiotics will be prescribed. The sooner your dog receives treatment, the better his chances of survival – but many dogs do die even with treatment.

Thankfully, the prognosis for tularemia is better for humans. If you begin showing signs of tularemia (they're more or less the same in dogs and people), contact your physician. Treatment with antibiotics will last 10 – 21 days, but most patients recovery fully.

Canine Babesiosis

Babesiosis is a condition caused by a single-celled protozoan parasite that can be passed to dogs via tick bite. There are several strains of babesiosis carried by various species of ticks. The disease is most common in the coastal Northeastern states, but it exists throughout the United States. Thankfully, though humans can also contract babesiosis from tick bites, your dog cannot pass the infection directly on to you.

Signs of babesiosis in dogs include a lack of energy and appetite, pile gums, weight loss, discolored stool, an enlarged abdomen and colored urine. Your vet can diagnose babesiosis with a blood test and urinalysis. Severely ill dogs may need to be hospitalized for treatment, but most can be treated at home. Dogs typically recover from babesiosis on their own with supportive therapies like fluids and iron supplements. Some require quinine or antibiotics to help fight secondary bacterial infections. In either case, the prognosis is quite good, and most dogs recover fully.

After any tick bite, it's important to monitor your dog for signs of illness and contact your animal hospital promptly if you notice anything abnormal.