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What diseases do ticks carry?

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When we worry about ticks transmitting illnesses, we tend to think of Lyme disease first. But did you know ticks may also carry other serious diseases, and some could be transmitted even faster? Learn the worrisome facts about ticks.

Tick-borne disease is a very serious problem, especially as infected ticks increase in number. The two most common species of ticks in Canada include Blacklegged (Deer) ticks, and American dog ticks. Brown dog ticks and Lone Star ticks are still rare and are not considered endemic to Canada. These ticks carry different diseases that can be transferred to your dog if they bite and feed long enough. The species most Canadians are concerned about is the Deer tick, since it can transit Lyme disease. Other diseases, however, can also be transmitted by ticks, and at a much faster rate.

Here is an overview of common diseases carried by ticks and what symptoms to look for.

ticks in Canada

Lyme Disease

Pathogen: Borrelia burgdorferi

Transmission time: as little as 24 hours

Tick Species: Deer tick

Description: Infection can lead to malaise, lameness, fever and sometimes more serious signs such as kidney or heart disease.

Symptoms: shifting leg lameness, reluctance to move, fatigue


Pathogen: Ehrlichia sp.

Transmission time: as little as 3 hours

Tick Species: Brown dog tick, Lone Star tick, American dog tick

Description: Infection of the blood, leading to illness.

Symptoms: fever, weight loss, bleeding disorders, anemia, immune disorders


Pathogen: Anaplasma sp

Transmission time: as little as 4 hours

Tick Species: Deer tick, Brown dog tick

Description: Infection of the blood leading to changes in blood cell numbers.

Symptoms: fever, lethargy, anemia

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Pathogen: Rickettsia rickettsii

Transmission time: as little as 5 hours

Tick Species: American dog tick, Lone Star tick, Brown dog tick

Description: Infection causing severe illness usually appearing within weeks of a tick bite. If left untreated, it can cause death.

Symptoms: Severe fever, lethargy, stiffness, swollen lymph nodes, bleeding disorders

A closer look at Lyme Disease

How is Lyme disease transmitted to dogs?

Lyme disease is caused by a microscopic organism called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria lives inside the deer tick and is transmitted to dogs when an infected tick attaches and feeds on a dog’s blood, releasing the bacteria (disease) into the dog as it feeds. These ticks usually hide in shady, moist environments and live in leaf litter. Ticks climb onto vegetation to quest (wait for a host) and climb onto dogs as the dogs move through grass, shrubbery or bushes.

What are the risks of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is one of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks, and can affect dogs of all ages, sizes or breeds. It is especially important for your dog to be protected against ticks if they spend lots of time outdoors. Ticks and tick bites are not easy to spot on your dog, and symptoms of Lyme disease can be difficult to detect. To reduce tick biting and attachment, it is important that your dog receives regular and appropriate tick treatment.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?

Lyme disease can affect different systems within each dog’s body, so symptoms may vary. The most common symptoms in dogs are:

  • Reluctance to move
  • Fever
  • Leg or joint pain often lasting several days
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue

Can Lyme disease be transferred from pets to humans?

While Lyme disease is seen occasionally in dogs, and much more frequently in people, it is very rare that cats contract it. Dogs cannot directly transmit the disease to humans. The same infected ticks that carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease in dogs, however, can also attach to and bite humans, leading to disease transmission. If you spend time outdoors with your dog it is a good idea to check yourself for ticks, wear protective clothing and apply insect repellent.

How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme or other tick-borne diseases?

There are a number of options available for pet owners to help manage the threat of ticks. K9 Advantix®II topical flea and tick treatment works differently from other products because it kills all major species of ticks through contact, so no biting is required. This easy-to-apply monthly topical also kills fleas, lice and mosquitoes, and reduces biting by mosquitoes and stable flies. Be sure to speak to your veterinarian about the health risks of ticks in your area and ask for K9 Advantix®II to make sure your dog is protected from these nasty parasites.

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