Ask the Vet: Lyme not only issue with ticks

By now my overall distaste for ticks is well known and their ability to spread diseases to people and pets is disturbingly diverse.

Lyme disease deservedly gets the bulk of the attention, but some less well known diseases can infect your dog via a tick bite and the warm, wet spring is creating a perfect environment for ticks to reproduce and spread disease.

Anaplasmosis is a bacterial disease similar to Lyme disease and is transmitted by the same species of tick, so often dogs may be infected with Anaplasma as well as the Borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

The symptoms are generally less severe than Lyme disease and are associated with a low number of blood platelets that assist in blood clotting, so bleeding disorders may be seen.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is one of the more widespread tick-borne diseases in the United States, often contradicting its limited geographic name. It is spread by multiple species of ticks, which explains its extended range. RMSF is also unique in that is can be transmitted very quickly after the tick bites your dog.

Joint pain, enlarged lymph nodes and inflammation of blood vessels, called vasculitis, are typical symptoms associated with RMSF.

Babesiosis has seen a resurgence in recent years and is somewhat unique among disease that are tick-borne in that it can be spread via a tick bite but also through contaminated blood. “Pit bull”-type breeds are susceptible to Babesia infections and with their well-deserved increasing popularity as pets (including my own), the incidence of this infection is increasing. The infection causes bursting of red blood cells, called hemolysis. When the severity of the hemolysis increases, the body can’t keep up and the skin and gums may take on a yellow appearance, or jaundice.

As an infected dog becomes more anemic from the loss of red blood cells, they maybe lethargic or have trouble breathing. If severe, a blood transfusion may be needed. The fact that this can be transmitted through infected blood products is why dogs are now screened for this disease if they participate in a blood donor program.

While this is only a partial list of the less common tick-borne infection that are being spread, it reminds us that those awful, little eight-legged creatures are out there and protection and prevention are still the best option for you and your dog.

Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be emailed to or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 N. Superior St. Toledo, OH., 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.


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