Back in the “old days,” most dog owners could do very little to prevent diseases in their furry companions. Today, we have dozens of options that can prevent a battery of nasty diseases in our four-legged friends — but the top three are tick-borne illnesses, rabies and heartworm.

Tick-borne diseases

Every year, thousands of dogs are infected with serious illnesses spread by a tiny insect that can be found everywhere from the deepest backwoods to the most pristine urban parks: the tick.

Ticks — which most medical experts agree need to be embedded for 24 to 48 hours to spread infections — attach themselves to dogs, feed on blood and transmit diseases directly into the bloodstream.

Both prescription and over-the-counter products can keep ticks from attaching most of the time, but the best preventative is to check your dog daily if you live in a tick-prone region, and remove and destroy any ticks you find.

Major canine tick-borne diseases include:

  • Lyme disease. The tiny (barely the size of a sesame seed) Western black-legged tick or deer tick — found in 56 of California’s 58 counties — is the main vector for this serious bacterial infection. It can cause stiffness, lameness, swollen joints, loss of appetite, fever and fatigue.
  • Ehrlichiosis. Caused by the brown dog tick, this is one of the most common and dangerous tick-borne diseases infecting dogs; symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, runny eyes and nose, and swollen limbs. In its acute stage, ehrlichiosis can be fatal.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The American dog tick, the wood tick, and the lone star tick carry this disease, which causes fever, stiffness, skin lesions and neurological problems. Serious cases can result in death. (See link for article)



Again, minimum tick attachment time for transmission has never been studied. Prudence would err on the side of caution.  We also know that partially fed ticks can transmit pathogens more quickly:  There’s also examples of humans becoming infected within a few hours of tick bite as well as the fact Rickettsia can be transmitted immediately and Powassan within minutes.  Many pathogens have been found in the salivary glands of ticks also suggesting quicker transmission.

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