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Signs of Tick Fever in Dogs & How It Is Treated

Signs of Tick Fever in Dogs & How It Is Treated

Rickettsia rickettsii is a parasite that can be transmitted to your dog through the bite of an infected tick. This parasite is responsible for the spread of tick fever to dogs and people across the US. Today our Matthews vets look at the symptoms of tick fever in dogs and available treatments.

How Tick Fever is Spread

Rickettsia rickettsii is an intracellular parasite that is spread through the bite of an infected brown dog tick, American dog tick, or Rocky Mountain wood tick. Rickettsia rickettsii is the cause of tick fever in both dogs and people.

Although people can contract tick fever, there are no reported cases of direct dog to human transmission of the disease. That said, pet parents need to be careful when removing ticks from their pet since people can become infected due to contact with tick blood or excretions if they have scratches or open wounds on their hands. 

Tick fever not contagious between dogs however, an infected tick can move from one dog to another spreading the disease between pets.

Signs That Your Dog May Have Tick Fever

Symptoms of tick fever can take up to 14 days to appear after your pup has been bitten by an infected tick, and may be vague and extremely varied in nature. In many cases diagnosing tick fever is challenging since the symptoms of this condition are common to other illnesses commonly seen in dogs. If your dog has contracted tick fever you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever up to 105°F (40.5°C)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Joint inflammation
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Swelling of the face or limbs
  • Coughing
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Abdominal pain

Purplish-red spots inside the eyelids and mouth may be seen in dogs suffering from a severe case of tick fever, and approximately 30% of dogs will experience central nervous system symptoms such as an altered mental state, poor balance and spinal sensitivity.

Always take symptoms of tick fever seriously. Tick fever can be life-threatening. If your dog is showing any of the signs of tick fever listed above book a vet appointment for your dog right away!

How Your Vet Will Diagnose Tick Fever

Your vet will perform a thorough physical examination of your pup looking for any of the symptoms listed above. If your vet believes that your dog has tick fever they may recommend testing such as blood tests, urinalysis and x-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

Tick Fever Treatment in Dogs

When it comes to tick fever any delay in treatment could lead to increasingly severe symptoms, and may even become fatal. That's why your vet may prescribe a round of antibiotics even before test results confirming the diagnosis come back. Antibiotics commonly prescribed for the treatment of tick fever in dogs include tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline. Your vet may also recommend a blood transfusion to help treat anemia resulting from tick fever.

Once antibiotic treatment begins most dogs show signs of improvement within 24 to 48 hours, although in some severe cases the disease may not respond to treatment at all.

Prognosis For Dogs with Tick Fever

Dogs typically recover well, with few complications, if tick fever is spotted early and treated right away. That said, for dogs with more advanced cases of tick fever the prognosis is guarded since these dogs face an increased risk of complications such as kidney disease, neurological disease, vasculitis, and coagulopathies.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Getting Tick Fever

Reducing your dog's exposure to ticks is the best way to help protect your dog against tick fever. Preventive medications from your vet can help to kill ticks that begin feeding on your pet, and examining your dog for ticks each time you return home from a walk can help to prevent the transmission of the bacteria to your pup.

If you are unsure about how to remove ticks from your dog, visit your vet where they will be happy to show you how to remove ticks properly or remove the tick for you. Do not touch the tick as fluids and excretions from an infected tick can spread the disease to humans. Always were gloves and use tweezers (or a tick removal tool) to remove ticks from your dog. 

Is your dog showing severe symptoms of tick fever? Visit our Matthews emergency animal hospital for urgent veterinary care for your pup. Our team of emergency vets offers compassionate critical care for pets in Matthews and the surrounding area. Contact us for more information.

Caring for Pets in Matthews

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews accepts new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our emergency service accepts all clients.

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