Vet Blog

How Can Tick-Borne Diseases Spread?

June 06, 2018

Keeping your pet safe from harm is almost certainly one of your biggest priorities, yet it is not always accidents and injuries that you need to be most concerned about.

Animals can get sick too and just like us, there are many different things that can cause your furbaby to become unwell.

Illnesses come in many shapes and forms, and in the case of tick-borne diseases, you will need to protect your pet from the carrier rather than the disease itself. This is because tick-borne diseases get their name from their mode of transmission - through a bite from an infected tick.

How do ticks attach to their hosts

Despite their small size, ticks can create a very strong bond to their host for feeding. They do this by grasping the skin and cutting into the surface. It then inserts it's feeding tube through the skin, so it can tap into your pet's blood supply. Many ticks also produce an adhesive-like substance which helps keep them attached for the duration of feeding.

The length of time a tick feeds can range from hours to days. Once finished, it will drop off of your pet's body and enter the next stage of its lifecycle.

How do ticks spread disease?

Ticks are small, wingless creatures that are closely related to spiders and other members of the arachnid family. They can vary in color and size, but most are under 1cm and either round or tear-shaped but relatively flat. As the tick feeds it will fill with blood, becoming rounder.

Ticks spread disease by consuming the blood of an already-infected animal. When it does this, some of the disease-causing organisms get into the tick's body and are passed back out again when it connects to a new host.

Contrary to what many people believe, any disease that a tick might be carrying does not automatically transfer to the new host at the moment of the bite. Instead, in most cases the tick must be attached for a number of hours for the disease to have a chance of transmitting. In particularly slow-feeding ticks, such as those that carry Lyme disease, it can take between 36 and 48 hours for the Lyme disease bacterium to successfully transfer to your pet.

About tick-borne diseases

Ticks are currently known to be able to spread nine bacterial diseases, four viral infections and one illnesses linked with a parasite. However, of these diseases, there are three ticks that are responsible for the majority of cases of tick-related illness. These are as follows:

  • The Blacklegged tick (also known as the Deer tick) - Transmits Lyme disease, Babesiosos, Anaplasmosis and Powassan disease.
  • The Lone Star tick - Transmits Tularemia, a condition that predominantly affects cats.
  • The American Dog tick - responsible for the spread of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Accidental transmission of tick-borne diseases

In some rare cases, it is possible for the accidental transmission of a tick-borne disease to occur. This usually happens when a person has tried to remove a tick from the body of a pet, but during the process the tick regurgitates infected blood onto your skin or the skin of your pet. It takes just the smallest break in the skin to enable the infected blood to pass into your pet's bloodstream and transmit the disease to her.

Regular use of preventive treatment is the best way to keep your pet safe from tick-borne diseases. For further information, contact us and speak to your veterinarian in Columbus, NC at Bonnie Brae Veterinary Hospital.