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


  • 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 and the critical stage at which it is identified.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How do you know if your dog has tick fever?

Ticks are a troublesome parasite that can cause a variety of diseases among dogs including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis. 

If your dog contacts tick fever, there will be some telling signs of it. Here are some behavioural and visible signs that a tick is bothering your dog:

  • Your dog shows signs of fever. While this could be symptomatic of many other signs of diseases, tick fever symptoms typically show up 24 hours after your dog is infected. Look for signs of weakness, loss of appetite, shivering and unusual panting.
  • Ticks usually leave bite marks on your dog, and this can be noticed if your dog is frequently licking on the bite site. You may also notice scabs on your dog as a result of this behaviour.
  • Ticks usually settle on a dog’s ears, front legs or groin. If you notice your dog constantly shaking its head. This could be a sign of a tick resting in the ear canal. 
  • While petting your dog, if you feel a bump on the surface of its skin, this could be a telltale sign of a tick infestation. 

There are other signs that only a vet will be able to diagnose. These include:

  • Low Hb in blood test
  • Depression
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Joint pain
  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty in Breathing
  • Swollen legs
  • Neurological issues or bone marrow failure


2. Is tick fever in dogs contagious to humans?

Tick fever, if not taken care of in the early stages, can prove fatal to dogs. Dogs can come in contact with ticks in one of two ways – due to an unhygienic environment or a bite from an infected tick. 

Once infected, the dog becomes a carrier of the disease, and some form of tick bite fever-like Lyme disease can be contracted by humans, but it is not common in India. However, humans with a strong immune system may be able to fight off the disease, but for those who have weak natural defences or one that is still developing, the chances of contracting tick fever is high. 

That is why it is advisable to have a dog be thoroughly checked for any signs of infection, especially if you are having one adopted into your family. Young children and elderly individuals can have their immune system compromised due to ticks. So it is best to have the dog thoroughly checked before you bring it home and always manage the dog health in a proper way so as to prevent tick infestation and resultant tick fever. . 


3. How serious is tick fever in dogs?

Tick fever is a serious illness in canines. The parasite usually climbs onto the surface of the dog’s skin and bites it to suck blood. Within 24 hours of the bite, symptoms of tick fever start showing on the dog. 

A major cause for concern with regards to tick fever is anemia. It renders your dog inactive, with a very pale appearance. Once diagnosed, the recovery period for tick fever depends on the dog’s metabolism, but otherwise is quite long and may require external assistance such as blood transfusions. 

It goes without saying that untreated tick fever will be fatal for dogs, and is something that every owner must take very seriously and with extreme caution during the recovery stages. 


4.Can tick fever in dogs be cured?

Yes, you can get rid of ticks before any chance of the fever or further symptoms set in. Once you spot ticks on your dog, a few things you can practice on your own include: 

  • Use a medicated bath – use a tick shampoo to bathe – and then dry the dog
  • If you do not have a tick shampoo use RIDD dissolved in water – though its not as effective on ectoparasites as it is on endoparasites.
  • Use a Fipronil spray on the dog. Spray on the areas ticks are/were present and along the spine against the grain, and all over the dog. Massage the spray well into the skin.
  • Repeat after a week.
  • Dust all the bedding and the clothing of the dog with an anti-tick powder
  • If there is a heavy infestation of ticks, Shear off all the hair for a dog immediately. Ticks lay eggs and they will keep hatching. The less real estate they have the better it is for your dog.

Approach a vet immediately if the tick fever has already set in. The vet will advise on immediate treatment and best practices to ensure your dog returns to its happy self. Do not self medicate a dog if you suspect tick fever or any illness. Always consult a registered veterinary professional for the care of your loved pets.


5. How do you prevent tick fever in dogs?

As with the case of any sickness, prevention is better than cure. When it comes to tick fever, there are numerous things you can practice to ensure your dog stays safe from these pesky parasites. 

  • Bathe your dog frequently with VOSD Egg Protein Shampoo, especially if they are of the long hair breed. If you notice any ticks you can use VOSD Tick and Flea Shampoo with Cypermethrin. Our shampoo ensures a lustrous after use hair feel and allows easier grooming for medium and long-haired dogs. 
  • Massage your dog’s fur with neem oil – this is especially useful as a preventive agent on short hair dogs.
  • Use VOSD Tick and Flea lotion including Fipronil for heavy tick infestations. These products kill off tick eggs and provide a month’s worth of protection.
  • Keep your home clean. And if you’ve got a dog kennel, make sure to spray it with tick and flea control products. 

As the old saying goes, “ a healthy dog is a happy dog”. And with your constant care and support as a dog owner, tick fever can be tackled like a pro!


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.