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How to Protect Your Dog from Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases

Dogs can be very susceptible to ticks and the diseases they carry, especially in areas where ticks are more common. They’re even more susceptible to them than humans despite popular belief. According to the New York Department of Health, ticks are usually found in damp and shady areas that are close to the ground. They tend to cling to tall grass, shrubs, and brush that are no more than 18-24 inches above the ground. Additionally, you may find them in gardens and lawns, especially around older stone walls and at the edges of woods. Dogs can easily pick them up in multiple ways such as on hikes, exploring in the woods, and wandering through tall grass.

Ticks are prevalent nationwide with the type of tick varying by geographical location. The prevalence of tick-borne diseases varies depending on the type of tick, the number of ticks in an area, and the number of infectious agents they carry, which can be influenced by weather, rainfall, and climate. Therefore, it is important to constantly protect your dog from ticks and closely monitor tick-borne diseases to prevent their spread.

What are the Different Tick-Borne Diseases?

a zoomed in photo of a brown tick on white dog fur

Multiple tick-borne diseases affect dogs in various ways, all of which have their own set of symptoms and treatments. Always, the number one way to prevent your dog from developing these diseases in protecting them from ticks in the first place. The following diseases are some of the most common tick-borne diseases:

Lyme Disease

Did you know that Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne illnesses in both pets and humans? Though it's more commonly reported in certain regions of the US like the upper Midwest, northeastern, and Mid-Atlantic states, it can also be found in other areas such as California, Oregon, and Washington. The symptoms typically appear within a few weeks to months after the infection, so it's essential to keep an eye out for them to catch the disease as early as possible. These symptoms include loss of appetite, kidney complications, swollen lymph nodes, joint swelling, fatigue, and lameness. Remember to consult your doctor or veterinarian if you notice any of these signs to ensure timely treatment. The diagnosis of Lyme Disease is often done by observing the symptoms and doing a serologic test such as the Lyme Multiplex assay. Treatment of Lyme Disease in dogs comes in the form of antibiotics and the earlier these are administered, the better the chance of late-stage Lyme disease.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is commonly transmitted by the Rocky Mountain wood tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick and is one of the most well-known tick-borne diseases. When an infected tick attaches to your dog, it will only be able to spread the disease after being attached for 10 hours, although, if it has recently fed, it can spread in only 10 minutes. This is why vigilance is the key to prevention. Clinical signs can start to appear within 2 to 14 days of the infected bite. The most common symptoms are fever, discharge from the eyes or nose, abdominal and joint pain, diarrhea, poor appetite, nosebleeds, vomiting, and enlarged lymph nodes. Approximately 1-10% of infected dogs end up passing away from the disease but early diagnosis can help prevent this. If your veterinarian suspects Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, they will perform blood tests on your dog with a treatment of antibiotics. Treatment for dehydration and bleeding may be necessary in severe cases.

Canine Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis

Another one of the more common tick-borne diseases, Ehrlichiosis is usually transmitted by brown dog tick as well as the long star and black-legged tick with the vast majority of cases found in the southwestern and Gulf Coast regions of the United States. Cases are currently rising nationwide with it affecting German Shepherds and Dobermans the most severely. Many dogs exhibit symptoms during the acute phase, including weight loss, fever, swollen lymph nodes, respiratory distress, bleeding disorders, and occasional neurological disturbances. Lasting two to four weeks, some dogs may resolve the infection, while others enter the long-term phase, characterized by the lack of symptoms, making it difficult to notice and diagnose. Acute cases are most commonly seen during the warmer months aka tick season with the risk of fatality being significantly reduced and quicker recovery. Most short-term cases are seen in the warmer months when ticks are active. During this phase of infection, death is rare and the infected animal may recover spontaneously. There is still a chance that dogs who have recovered from the acute version may develop long-term Ehrlichiosis. Ehrlichiosis is often diagnosed via a blood test with antibiotics prescribed to treat the disease.

How Can I Prevent Ticks?

a person using a tick removal devise on a golden retriever
The number one way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to prevent the ticks! Primarily during tick season, it’s important to keep your dog on the trail while hiking and not allow them to get into tall grass or bushes. While a tick preventive medication is highly recommended for dogs in areas where ticks are the most prevalent or who go in the wilderness often, all dogs should be given a tick preventative. You may see these labeled “Flea and Tick Preventative” so if you give your dog flea meds, you’re most likely already giving them a tick preventative as well. Tick checks are crucial for removing ticks as soon as possible before there are consequences. This is done by brushing your hand over your dogs and feeling for bumps as well as checking paws and the mouth. For more information about checking for ticks and removing them properly to not cause an infection follow the steps here.


To wrap things up, remember: dogs are highly susceptible to tick-borne diseases, especially in areas where ticks are prevalent. If you’re unsure, you can check this map from the CDC but no matter where you live, it’s important to remember that ticks can pop up anywhere. In order to prevent diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Ehrlichiosis, you should be conducting regular tick checks, giving your dog preventative medications, and doing proper tick checks to remove any hitchhikers immediately. By remaining proactive in tick prevention and management, you can help ensure the health and well-being of your beloved dog.

Please note that the information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. We are not veterinarians, and the content shared here should not be considered professional veterinary advice.

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