Vet Blog

Tick Bite Risks and Prevention

June 15, 2018

Parasites are a problem that will face every pet owner at some point during their furry friend's lifetime.

Parasites are creatures that live on or inside your pet and thrive by deriving nutrients at her expense. There are a number of different parasites that can affect your animal. One of the most common is the humble tick.

Ticks are tiny arachnids that are primarily found hidden in areas of grassland, woods, swamps and even yards. When they eat, their body swells with blood which can make them easier to spot. There are many different species of tick living in the United States, some of which are well known for carrying disease.

How do I know if my pet has a tick?

The easiest way to identify whether or not your pet has a tick is to spot the parasite itself on her body. Check her over carefully regularly, particularly if she has been outside. Ticks tend to live in long grasses and wooded areas, so if you live in an area with an abundance of countryside or parkland, your pet may be more likely to suffer from a tick problem.

Other indicators that your beloved furbaby may have a tick include itchiness and inflammation around the bite site, and if she has a reaction to the bite, a fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and weight loss.

What are the risks associated with a tick bite?

While a tick bite is not pleasant for any animal, there are also some risks when one of these pesky parasites chooses your pet for its next meal. Here are some of the problems a tick bite can cause.


In addition to an allergic reaction to the bite, a small animal with a large number of ticks may begin to suffer from the effects of severe blood loss, also known as anemia. While this is a rare occurrence, it is a risk for cats, kittens, small-breed dogs and puppies and in some cases, can be fatal.

Tick paralysis

Contrary to what many people believe, tick paralysis is not caused by a microorganism in the tick but instead by a neurotoxin in its saliva. This toxin targets your pet's nervous system and causes symptoms including the paralysis from which it takes its name. Removing the tick usually helps alleviate the symptoms, but the condition can be extremely serious, and some pets need emergency care, particularly if their respiratory function has been compromised.

Lyme disease

Ticks are well known for being carriers of Lyme disease, a potentially dangerous health condition that can cause lameness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and joints. In severe cases, heart problems, kidney disease and nervous system disorders may also occur. Treatment is possible using antibiotics, but some pets suffer from ill effects for months or years after Lyme disease.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Also referred to as RMSF for short, this is a disease that can cause symptoms similar to that of Lyme disease, as well as liver failure, seizures and even pneumonia. Antibiotics can be used to treat RMSF.

Other potentially threatening diseases that can be transmitted by ticks include:

  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplsmosis
  • Haemobartonellosis
  • Tularemia
  • Babesiosis
  • Cytauxzoonosis
  • American Canine Hepatozoonosis

Tick prevention

Fortunately, tick bites don't have to be a forgone conclusion. There are ways that you can protect your pet so that she doesn't have to suffer from the discomfort and possible health complications associated with a tick infestation.

If you pop into your nearest pet store, you will find a range of preventative treatments, many of which combine protection from ticks with that for other parasites too. Different styles of preventive solution are also available, from collars and spot-on ointments to oral medications. Our veterinarians in Columbus NC at Bonnie Brea Veterinary Hosptial will be delighted to talk you through the different options and make a recommendation as to the best products to get your furbaby fully protected against ticks, as well as other parasites that may pose a risk to her health. Contact us today for further advice.