Dog Complications From Tick Bites

Written by stephany elsworth
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Dog Complications From Tick Bites
Tick-bite diseases can be fatal if left untreated. (Dog image by Lea Petrasova from

Ticks are small parasitic organisms that draw blood from their hosts. A dog can develop serious complications after being bitten by a tick, including a number of different life-threatening diseases. The symptoms of tick-borne illnesses are often vague and generalised, which makes it difficult to diagnose them until they are in their later stages.

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Tick Bite Paralysis

Tick bite paralysis is a rare disease that happens when female wood or mountain ticks release a toxin into a dog, blocking the signals that normally pass between the nervous system and muscles. The dog becomes progressively weaker, according to, and eventually becomes unable to walk. The animal has difficulty breathing and will eventually die without treatment. This condition is treated at home by removing the tick. Doctors Foster and Smith recommend using a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick by the head or mouth parts. Be careful not to separate the head or the mandibles from the body. Kill the tick by dropping it in a closed container of rubbing alcohol. indicates that the dog will usually make a complete recovery within 24 to 72 hours after the tick has been removed.

Dogs with advanced cases of tick bite paralysis suffer from disease-related complications that require veterinary intervention. Intravenous fluid or respiratory assistance are necessary if the dog has been paralysed for an extended period of time or if it is unable to breathe on its own.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is spread through the bite of the Rocky Mountain wood tick or the American dog tick. A bacteria-like organism called rickettsia rickettsii enters the dog through tick saliva. The Iowa State University's Center for Food Security and Public Health indicates that the symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever vary widely between individuals. Dogs sometimes experience stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as swollen lymph nodes and swelling in the face. More extreme symptoms include retinal detachment or retinal haemorrhage. Complications, such as neurological disease, occur in approximately one-third of all cases. The later stages of the disease are characterised by tremors, neurological damage, muscle weakness, heart inflammation and kidney failure. Antibiotics are effective in the early stages of the disease before neurological damage occurs.


Ehrlichiosis is a disease that is transmitted through the bites of the brown dog tick and the lone star tick. It is caused by the rickettsia organism, which explains is somewhere between a bacteria and a virus. The early symptoms include a loss of appetite, depression, anaemia, joint pain and easy bruising. As the disease enters the chronic phase, the symptoms intensify. Additional symptoms of the disease include eye inflammations, swelling in the back legs and a decrease of all types of blood cells. Ehrlichiosis is treated using antibiotics such as tetracycline or doxycycline. The prognosis is good for dogs that receive treatment during the early stages of the disease.

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