Tick Fever in Dogs

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 Simi Valley 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

Tick fever symptoms can appear up to 14 days after a tick bite and can be vague and varied. In many cases, diagnosing tick fever is difficult because the symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses commonly seen in dogs. If your dog has tick fever, you may see 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 veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your puppy, looking for any of the symptoms listed above. If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has tick fever, they may recommend blood tests, urinalysis, or X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

Tick Fever Treatment in Dogs

Tick fever in dogs is curable with prompt and appropriate treatment. Treatment typically involves antibiotics to target the infection caused by the tick-borne disease, along with supportive care to manage symptoms such as fever and dehydration. It is important to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your dog's specific condition.

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're not sure how to remove ticks from your dog, go to your veterinarian. They'll be happy to show you how or remove the tick for you. Do not touch the tick, as its fluids and excretions can transmit the disease to humans. Always use gloves and tweezers (or a tick removal tool) to remove ticks from your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing severe symptoms of tick fever? Contact our Simi Valley animal hospital right away for an appointment.