Identification and Treatment of Tick Fever

Identification and Treatment of Tick Fever

Trying to understand tick fever in dogs? Learn what it is and how to treat tick fever in dogs at home.

Tick fever is a broad, generic term that identifies a group of diseases. This group includes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis. The most common tick fever in India is canine babesiosis, and that is what is being described in this article. Babesia canis and babesia gibsoni are the only two species known to infect dogs.

Meet (Badi) Shilpi – She was rescued in Delhi with tick-fever and brought to our Dog Shelter. But now towers over most of the VOSD dogs at a healthy 70 kilos.

How do dogs contract babesiosis?

Although babesiosis usually gets transmitted through an infected tick, it can also transmit when an infected dog (having abrasions) bites another dog. In certain cases, it can also transmit to unborn puppies in the uterus of their mothers or through a blood transfusion gone wrong.

Symptoms of tick fever in dogs

Initial symptoms will manifest as disinterest and lethargy. The dog will develop a high fever and may start looking pale. In later stages, the temperature reverses and will consistently stay below normal range.

Other symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty in Breathing
  • Swollen legs
  • Neurological issues or bone marrow failure

Diagnosis of tick fever in dogs

  • A blood test will confirm that the dog has tick fever. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you get a veterinary consultation done as soon as you see any of the above symptoms in your dog.
  • It is extremely difficult to diagnose either babesiosis or ehrlichiosis just by physical examination because their symptoms mimic those of several other diseases. However,if the steroids and drugs used to cure certain other diseases are administered to affected dogs, it can be fatal to their health.
  • Do not allow the vet to rely on physical examination alone. Insist on a blood test.
  • Encourage the vet to take blood from a cut on the ear tip or from a toenail as it improves the odds of finding the parasites.
  • You can also get the blood smears examined by checking the presence of babesia organisms.
  • In case your dog is infected with other tick diseases like Lyme disease, etc., the diagnosis can become more complicated.
  • You can also include other tests like an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test or a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) as a diagnostic measure. The advantage of PCR testing is that it can detect all species of babesia.

Development of tick fever in the dog

After the tick bites, the disease takes 10-21 days to develop. The dog becomes anaemic and urine may turn visibly red because of the destruction of the Red Blood Corpuscles (RBCs). Tick fever may be classified as uncomplicated or complicated – but both are serious conditions.

  • In uncomplicated cases, dogs are acutely ill with fever, depression, anorexia, pale gums, and dark urine. Some dogs may become jaundiced with yellow gums and eyes, and some may collapse suddenly.
  • In complicated cases, signs may include acute kidney failure, neurological disorders, swelling of the legs, or breathing problems. Shock, vomiting, and death may also occur.

How to treat tick-borne diseases in dogs?

Tick-borne diseases are difficult to treat and require early diagnosis, followed by proper timely treatment to ensure your pet stays healthy. The treatment is aimed at clearing the infection and reversing the anemia.

Tick fever in dog’s treatment is a full 21-day course of medications.

  • Day 1:
    • Dog gets 1st Imizol / Berenil injection + Doxycycline and fluids
  • Day 1 – Day 21:
    • Administration of oral Doxycycline (human med). Doxycycline is a part of the tetracycline family of antibiotics and is the only proven cure for tick fever. A typical dose of 100mg/ 20kg of weight, twice a day. The dose may vary on the condition of the dog – please check with your vet.
    • 1 Rantac (human med) to prevent acidity.
    • IV as required for the amount of food the dog is taking and hydration requirements.
    • Vitamin B and Vitamin K supplements.
  • Day 21:
    • 2nd Imizol / Berenil injection
    • Perform another blood test to see the condition and determine the continuation of treatment

Note:

  • In the initial stage: In case the anemia is severe and the gums show paleness, the IV must be controlled since high IV administration will cause the blood to dilute even more to the point of causing shock and eventual death of the dog.
  • During treatment: Depending on the level of anemia and the condition of the kidneys, blood transfusion may be recommended and can produce good results.
  • After the treatment: In some dogs, a relapse may occur and so it is important to monitor the dog for up to 2 months.

How to treat tick fever in dogs at home?

Tick fever cannot be treated without proper diagnosis and veterinary advice and care. Do not waste time trying out home remedies as tick fever kills dogs quickly. Prevent tick fever by checking your dog’s coat on a weekly basis to look for any ticks and if you find any, start an anti-tick treatment as explained here.

Prevention of tick fever in the dog

The best idea is to prevent tick fever rather than address it because of the difficulty in identifying it. Itand the critical stage at which it is identified. 

Related Reading

The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.

Do you find this information useful? Find timely and relevant medical advice to help your dog, on the VOSD website.