Can a Dog Die from Ticks?

Can a Dog Die from Ticks?

Do you want your dog to enjoy the best quality of life possible? Then you should know that giving your time and attention is essential to achieve this. Through thorough observation you can tell when your dog is not well or suffering from an infestation of parasites — which, can be very dangerous.

This is the case of ticks, external parasites that can affect not only our pets but also us. There are approximately 800 species of ticks but all of them are hematophagous. That is, they feed on the blood of the organism to which they have parasitized. Did you know that a dog can die from ticks? In this AnimalWised article we will explain everything you should know about this vital subject.

Ticks CAN kill your dog

Ticks have great potential to act as vectors. Meaning, they are parasites capable of holding other pathogens which are transmitted to the parasitized body and cause diseases.

When temperatures rise and our dog goes outside, especially in natural environments with vegetation, they enter an environment infested by these parasites. Therefore, ticks can climb onto the animal to feed, piercing the skin of our dog with their highly specialized oral tool.

If tick infestation is notorious, they can cause weakness, anemia, progressive weight loss, and even death from bleeding. But, unfortunately only one tick is enough to transmit a life-threatening disease. Ticks can cause the death of your dog because of the diseases they transmit. These diseases can also affect you.

The most serious diseases ticks can transmit

In this section we are going to talk about the diseases that ticks can transmit to dogs. An early detection of these diseases may predict a good prognosis, because if the tick has not yet been anchored, it may have not transmitted any disease. On the contrary, failure to be detected early could lead to death.

  • Canine Borreliosis: More popularly known as Lyme disease, this is a pathology caused by a bacterium that mainly causes fever and joint disorders. In more advanced stages of the disease, there is involvement of the kidneys and inflammation of the heart muscle, which can lead to death.
  • Hepatozoonosis: This disease is caused by a protozoan called Hepatozoon canis. It especially affects young dogs, elderly dogs or those who have weak immune system. The tick that transmits it is the Rhipicephalus sanguineous.
  • Babesiosis: This is a parasitic disease caused by protozoa of the genus Babesia and that especially affects dogs. The most typical symptoms of babesiosis are fever, weakness, weight loss, restlessness and severe anemia. If it is not treated in time it can cause death.
  • Ehrlichiosis: It is caused by the bacterium Ehrlichia spp and is only carried by Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks.

While we have emphasized how important it is to warn these diseases in time, preventing the presence of ticks is even more crucial.

You should also know that if you find a tick in your dog it is not worth removing it anyway. As the oral device could be stuck in your pet’s skin, the risk of disease transmission would continue. You must use a specific clamp for ticks, which will allow the complete extraction of the parasite.

Prevention is key

At present there are products that are very easy to use (usually pipettes or collars ) that are able to repel the main species of ticks that parasite the dogs. These products have a combination of highly effective acaricides and insecticides and are not harmful to our pets if we use them properly. In addition, they come in different dosages depending on the weight of the dog.

The tick pipettes offer protection for about 4 weeks and we should take care not to bathe the dog within 24 hours after the application. Learn everything you need to know on deworming dogs in AnimalWised.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Can a Dog Die from Ticks?, we recommend you visit our Parasitic diseases category.

5 Truly Tragic Ways Ticks Can Kill Your Dog

This is your dog. This is your dog on ticks.

Ticks can cause Lyme disease, Powassan virus, and even the meat sweats , but that’s just ticks on humans. Ticks on dogs are an entirely different animal. There are many tick-borne diseases that can be especially dangerous and deadly for dogs. Applying tick prevention medications and regularly checking pups for bugs can help, but that’s sometimes not enough to stem the danger of tick borne diseases in dogs. Knowing what symptoms and types of tick diseases in dogs to be aware of and when to go to the veterinarian could ultimately make the difference between a dog’s life and death. From anaplasmosis to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, these are the signs pet parents need to look out for.

Canine Babesiosis

Sadly, this does not mean your dog is such a babe that it’s diagnosable. Unlike other tick-borne diseases, canine babesiosis is caused by not a bacteria but a malaria-like parasite transferred by deer ticks that destroys red blood cells. This type of tick bite symptoms in dogs include fever, lack of energy and appetite, pale gums, dark urine, discolored stools, weight loss, and an enlarged abdomen occur within two weeks of a bite. Babesiosis is difficult to diagnose and challenging to treat, because even though drug therapy and blood transfusions can help, dogs can die from low blood pressure and shock.

Canine Anaplasmosis

Typically transmitted by deer and brown dog ticks, canine anaplasmosis in dogs is a bacterial infection that causes joint pain, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite about one week after Fido is bitten. Veterinarians can identify it with a battery of tests, and the prognosis is pretty good if you catch the disease early and begin treating your dog with the antibiotic doxycycline. In rare instances it can cause seizures and kidney disease, both of which can be fatal.

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Canine Ehrlichiosis

Canine ehrlichiosis , otherwise known as “canine hemorrhagic fever” and “canine typhus,” affected many military dogs in the Vietnam War. Transmitted by the lone-star tick, Canine ehrlichiosis rears its head in three separate waves of tick bite symptoms in dogs. During the acute phase (one to three weeks after a bite) Ehrlichia bacteria infect the dog’s white blood cells and reproduces inside of them. This causes fever, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joint pain and stiffness, and bruises.

Most dogs recover from the acute phase but, if they don’t, they enter the subclinical phase, which can last for months or years as the bacteria remain latent. Until the chronic phase, which can result in weight loss, anemia, behavioral problems, bleeding, eye inflammation, fluid accumulation in the hind legs. A dog’s long-term health depends on detecting the Ehrlichia bacteria in the acute phase, when it is still treatable with antibiotics.

Otherwise, dogs may need intravenous fluids or blood transfusions to survive.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Transmitted by lone-star, wood, and American dog ticks, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is something of a triple threat for pups (and humans!). Rickettsia rickettsii, the bacterium behind the disease, acts very similarly to Ehrlichia and infects dogs in acute and subclinical phases. But with RMSF, the acute stage is the most serious. Within two weeks a tick bite on a dog, dogs may experience loss of appetite, cough, pinkeye, swelling of the legs and joints, seizures, skin lesions, and renal failure. The good news is that it can be treated with antibiotics. The bad news is that, untreated, it can be fatal.

Lyme Disease

Although it’s the most well-known tick disease in humans, Lyme disease is less of a concern for dogs. Deer ticks have to attach to a dog for 48 hours in order to pass on the Borrelia bacteria that cause the disease, and only about 10 percent of dogs exposed will actually contract Lyme. With the help of antibiotic treatment, it’s seldom fatal.

Hopefully, this information will ensure that fewer “good boys” and “good girls” become statistics.

Treating Tick Bites on Dogs

Ticks cause a variety of illnesses, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so it’s important to treat tick bites on dogs immediately. If you live in an area where certain tick-related illnesses are prevalent, save the tick in alcohol and take it to your veterinarian for diagnosis.

Finding Ticks

When your dog comes in from outdoors, it’s important to look him over for ticks. It usually takes about 24 hours for your dog to contract a tick-borne illness, so check him over as soon as possible.

Use a flea comb to comb through thick fur looking for fleas. If your dog has a thick coat, getting him wet can help. Look between toes as well as around the ears, face, mouth, tail, genitals and armpits, where ticks like to congregate. If you notice your dog chewing on a particular place, check it as ticks will often irritate your dogs and cause them to bite the area where the tick is located.

If you find a tick, remove it immediately. Ticks don’t drown so dispose of it by throwing it in the toilet or placing it in alcohol. Don’t crush a tick because that could spread disease.

Removing Ticks

There are several tricks for removing ticks, but many of them, such as Vaseline, alcohol or hot matches, don’t work. To remove a tick, simple is best: use tweezers and pull the tick firmly upward until you have pulled him from your pet’s skin. Don’t twist or pull too quickly as you might leave the head behind, which can cause disease or skin infection.

If you don’t have tweezers, put liquid soap on a cotton ball and use it to cover the tick for 15 seconds, which should cause the tick to release when you remove the cotton ball.

If you suspect you have removed the tick’s body without its head, use a sterile needle to remove the head like you would remove a splinter. Use antiseptic to cleanse the area with the bite. Wash your hands and the potentially infected area.

Treatment of Tick Bites

If your dog has an allergic reaction to tick bites, your veterinarian may prescribe a topical cream or antibiotic to treat any other symptoms that may appear. Benadryl can also reduce symptoms such as inflammation and itchiness around the bite. If the symptoms persist for several days, contact your veterinarian for medication.

Herbs vidang and haridra have also been used to treat tick bites as vidang provides relief to skin and ear infections and haridra is known to provide relief to the entire body.

Prevention of Tick Bites

As always, prevention is the best treatment. There are many pills and spot-on preventatives that repel ticks. If you live in an area with lots of ticks or like to take your dogs hiking in wooded areas, tick preventatives will save you a lot of time and headache.

Tick-borne illnesses can lead to serious symptoms such as fever, lameness, listlessness, loss of appetite or coordination, and difficulty breathing, chewing or swallowing. To keep your dog from contracting these illnesses, immediately find, remove and treat tick bites.

Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Most Common Symptoms

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What are Tick Paralysis?

Your dog’s risk depends on a variety of factors, including the prevalence of ticks in the environment. In the areas of the southern United States, ticks prevail all year; while in areas with colder winters, ticks thrive only in the spring and summer. Tick paralysis is most common in the southeastern United States, the Pacific Northwest, and the Rocky Mountain states. Your dog’s risk factor depends more on your environment and behavior than on breed. Toxicity does not directly correlate to the number of ticks found on your dog or their size, but rather depends upon the individual tick and the dog’s susceptibility. The exact pharmacology of the specific toxins that cause tick paralysis is yet to be determined, but they work by inhibiting the release of presynaptic acetycholine at neuromuscular junctions, leading to paralysis.

Tick paralysis or toxicity is an acute motor paralysis caused by neurotoxins produced in the salivary gland of certain species of ticks. The toxins cause lower motor neuron paralysis, or a loss of voluntary muscle movement.

Symptoms of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Your dog may display the following symptoms, which will worsen over time. Symptoms begin to display between five to seven days after the tick attaches itself to your dog. If you see your dog beginning to display any of the following, particularly if your dog has been in an area of heavy vegetation or exposed to other animals, seek veterinary help immediately.

  • Vomiting
  • Trouble standing/sitting still
  • Muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast heart rate, or tachyarrhythmia
  • Partial loss of muscle movements, or paresis
  • Complete loss of muscle movement, or paralysis
  • Poor reflexes or loss of reflexes
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Excessive drooling
  • Asphyxia
  • Difficulty eating
  • Impairment in vocal sounds, or dysphonia
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Causes of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Tick paralysis is caused salivary neurotoxins from an engorged, egg-laden female tick of the following species: American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), Deer tick or Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis).

Diagnosis of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

Prompt diagnosis depends on your thorough reporting of the onset of your dog’s symptoms, as well as any potential incidents that could have led to your dog picking up ticks. Be sure to report if your dog has recently been in thick vegetation in the last several days or weeks.

Further physical examination will be conducted to determine the extent of your dog’s muscle paralysis. Your dog’s muscle tone will be analyzed physically, and reflexes will be tested. Decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes are a sign of paralysis.

The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination in order to find ticks or evidence of tick bites. Any ticks that are found will be removed, and the veterinarian will often send them to a laboratory for species analysis. It is important that the veterinarian is the one to remove ticks in the case of tick paralysis, because they will ensure every part of the tick is removed and no further toxins are affecting your dog.

To rule out any other diseases that may be causing your dog’s symptoms, a blood count measuring white and red blood cells, a chemical blood profile measuring blood sugar and proteins and urinalysis measuring kidney functions will be taken and analyzed for abnormalities. In the case of respiratory muscle paralysis indicated by trouble breathing and/or elevated carbon dioxide and decreased oxygen levels found in the blood, radiography may be used to examine the size of your dog’s esophagus: an enlarged esophagus is a sign of labored breathing.

Treatment of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

In the majority of cases, removal of ticks from your dog will lead to a reduction of symptoms within 24 hours and total recovery within 72 hours. Your dog may be given an insecticidal bath in order to kill any ticks that may have been missed (particularly with a heavy coat or other factor that may hinder finding all of the ticks). While tick paralysis is very easy to treat, untreated, it can lead to death by respiratory paralysis. For this reason, it is imperative to seek treatment immediately.

Depending upon the extent of tick paralysis at diagnosis, your dog’s symptoms may need to be treated in order to aid recovery. In severe, advanced cases, your dog may need to be hospitalized and treated for stress with a tranquilizer or opiate, dehydration with intravenous fluids, fatigue with anesthesia, vomiting with antiemetic therapy, heart or respiratory distress with ventilation, or congestive heart failure with diuretics and oxygen therapy.

If your dog ends up in a state of severe dehydration, intravenous fluids will be given immediately. Alongside intravenous fluids, medications will be provided that can be used to counter the effects of the toxins on the nervous system, and to relax your dogs muscles so that they can breathe.

Recovery of Tick Paralysis in Dogs

When diagnosed in time and properly treated, there is a 95% chance of total recovery. Even with treatment, there is a chance of death, which increases with the amount of time your dog is infected with the toxin and left untreated.

During recovery, keep your dog in a cool and calm environment and avoid physical activity. If your dog is still having digestive problems, follow your veterinarian’s feeding instructions carefully. This may involve withholding food until the stomach settles, or feeding via syringe.

In order to prevent further cases of tick paralysis, keep your pet on preventative medication during the appropriate season, or all year round, depending on your climate. Check your pet for ticks regularly, and particularly after they have been in heavily vegetated areas. If you have a yard your dog regularly plays in, keep up with landscaping in order to discourage tick infestation.

Why a Dog Has a Lump After Tick Removal

Dogs that live in warm, wooded areas are especially susceptible to the bites of ticks — tiny arachnids that feed on blood. Though most tick bites are only minor inconveniences, ticks carry a host of illnesses. A tick bite can also cause infections and allergic reactions. A small amount of localized swelling is a normal inflammatory reaction to tick removal. However, if the swelling grows or remains present for more than a day, it could indicate something more serious.

Retained Head

A retained tick head is among the most common risks of tick removal. When you remove a tick from your dog, always check to enure the tick’s head is present. If you squeeze a tick or use heat when removing it, you may have only partially removed the tick, leaving the head inside the dog. If you’re not sure that you fully removed the tick, take your dog to the vet. If the tick’s head is still inside your dog, your veterinarian will excise the head and treat your dog with antibiotics.


Removing tick frequently leaves a small wound behind. When the tick is extremely engorged, it has often been attached to the dog for an extended period, increasing the likelihood of infection at the bite site. If you notice a lump on the site from which you removed the tick that gets larger the day after removal, your dog may have an infection. Other signs of infection include pus, oozing, fever and lethargy. Contact your vet, who will treat the infection with antibiotics.

Allergic Reaction

Ticks inject a variety of potentially disease-spreading fluids into dogs when they bite. Even when dogs are not exposed to diseases, however, they may exhibit allergic reactions to the tick’s saliva. If the area around the bite becomes swollen or red, if your dog has a rash or if your dog has a history of allergies, it may be experiencing an allergic reaction. Your vet may treat the wound with a cortisone injection or antibiotics.


The most serious potential cause of a lump at a tick bite site is Lyme disease. The symptoms of Lyme disease are frequently similar to a mild infection during the first days of the illness. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which has similar symptoms to those of Lyme disease, may also begin with a small lump after you remove the tick. Your veterinarian will perform tests to determine whether your dog has a serious illness or just irritation at the wound site.

Tick Bites

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2019.

What Is It?

Ticks are tiny, biting arachnids that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. They burrow painlessly into the skin with their feeding parts, bite, draw blood and eventually drop off when they become engorged with blood. Only the feeding parts are inserted into the skin. The body, which is dark in color and ranges from the size of a poppy seed to a pencil eraser, remains visible on the skin surface or scalp. Ticks swell and turn bluish-gray when filled with blood. Most tick bites in the United States involve hard ticks (Ixodidae), which have been increasing in number since the middle 1900s.

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Secretions from the tick’s feeding parts can cause skin reactions, such as raised areas, lumps and growths called granulomas. Fever and paralysis also may develop after tick bites, although paralysis is rare. In addition, ticks can be infected with bacteria, viruses or protozoa. These organisms can be transmitted from the tick to the host (the animal or person) as the tick feeds, causing disease.

Tick-borne diseases include:

Anaplasmosis (formerly known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis)

Human monocytic ehrlichiosis

Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Colorado tick fever

Ticks live in tall grass and in wooded areas, particularly cool, moist, mature woods with thick undergrowth. They also can be found at the edges of woods near lawns or fields, but rarely in lawns, which are too dry and hot. Ticks wait in the underbrush for an animal or human to brush by, and then grasp the fur or skin and crawl up the leg. They don’t fly, jump or drop from trees. They wander the body for 30 minutes to an hour before inserting their feeding parts into the skin.


Most tick bites do not cause any symptoms. However, the following symptoms can develop as a reaction to tick secretions:

Skin reactions include:

Hardened skin elevations

Nodules (granulomas) that, in rare cases, can grow large enough to require surgical removal

Tick paralysis is relatively rare. Paralysis begins in the feet and legs and gradually works its way to the upper body, arms and head over a period of hours or days. Once the tick is removed, a person with tick paralysis will recover completely. If the tick is not removed, the person can die if the muscles that control breathing are paralyzed.

Symptoms associated with tick-borne infections differ depending on the type of infection. Common symptoms are as follows:

Lyme disease – A variety of symptoms can occur, including a flulike illness, an expanding red rash that may include a central clear area (a bull’s-eye rash), arthritis, heart rhythm problems, difficulties in thinking or perception, and neuropathies (pain or changes in sensation as a result of nerve damage).

Human monocytic ehrlichiosis – Symptoms ranging from mild to severe can involve many organ systems. Common symptoms include high fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, weight loss and a spotted rash. Patients with weak immune systems can develop a fatal, overwhelming infection. Breathing difficulties and mental changes may also occur.

Anaplasmosis – Symptoms ranging from mild to severe include high fever, headache, a general sick feeling (malaise), achy muscles (myalgia), nausea, vomiting, cough, stiff neck and confusion. Less than 10% of people with this disease will develop a rash.

Colorado tick fever – Flulike symptoms include fever and chills, severe headache, achy muscles (myalgia), stiff neck, light intolerance and, in some cases, a spotted rash.

Babesiosis – Many people will not have any symptoms. Others develop fatigue, fever, drenching sweats, nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle aches, joint aches and jaundice. Patients with suppressed immune systems may develop severe disease.

Tularemia – The symptoms of this disease vary widely. Some people do not have any symptoms, but this disease also can be severe, causing septic shock and death. Common symptoms include fever, chills, headache and a general sick feeling (malaise). Many people also develop a single, red ulcerated lump with a central scab and tender, swollen lymph nodes in the area. A small number of patients develop pneumonia.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever – Symptoms include fever, headache, a spotted rash on wrists and ankles, and a patchy rash on arms and legs. Muscle aches (myalgia), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain are also common.


If you see your doctor for a tick bite, you will be asked about the size of the tick, whether it was attached to your skin and how long you think it had been attached. Your doctor will examine your skin for rashes and ask you about any symptoms that could suggest that you have developed a tick-borne infection. No further diagnostic tests are necessary unless you develop symptoms. If you develop symptoms that suggest a tick-borne illness, your physician will order a variety of blood tests to determine the cause.

Expected Duration

A tick bite can cause many different tick-borne infections. How long each illness lasts depends on the infecting organism. In general, the tick bite itself does not cause any symptoms, although some people may develop fever, headache, nausea and a general sick feeling caused by tick secretions. These symptoms usually go away within 24 to 36 hours after the tick is removed.

Tick-induced paralysis begins in the legs five to six days after the tick has attached to the skin, and it progresses to complete paralysis over several days. Paralysis begins to improve within a few hours of removing the tick, and complete recovery takes several days.

The organisms that cause Lyme disease and babesiosis rarely are transmitted to the person or animal if ticks are removed within the first 24 hours after they attach.


To prevent tick bites in tick-infested areas, take the following precautions:

When in the woods, walk on cleared trails. Avoid walking through tall grass and low brush in wooded areas.

Wear light-colored clothing covering both the arms and legs.

Tuck pant legs into socks.

Treat clothing and skin with tick repellents containing diethyltoluamide (DEET), or use the pesticide permethrin on clothing (but not skin).

Thoroughly check yourself, children and pets for ticks after spending time in tick-infested areas. Remember to check the scalp. If one tick is found, check for more.


When a tick is discovered on the skin or scalp, it should be removed immediately to avoid a skin reaction and to reduce the likelihood of developing a tick-borne infectious disease. Grasp the head of the tick with a pair of flat or curved forceps or tweezers held as close to the skin as possible. Avoid squeezing the tick. Gently pull the head of the tick away from the skin without twisting. The bite should be cleaned with soap and water. Save the tick in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

For people in areas where Lyme disease rates are high, one dose of doxycycline can prevent disease if taken within three days of a tick bite. So for those at highest risk, early treatment may be appropriate.

When To Call a Professional

Seek medical attention if a tick has buried itself deep in the skin and you cannot remove it or if you find an engorged tick on your skin and are living in or visiting an area where Lyme disease is a risk. Fever and flulike symptoms require medical attention if you know you’ve recently been bitten by a tick or if the symptoms are accompanied by a skin rash, particularly the bull’s-eye rash characteristic of Lyme disease. Muscle weakness or paralysis requires immediate medical attention.


If no infectious organisms have been transmitted by the tick, you should recover from symptoms within a day or two. The outlook for specific tick-borne illnesses varies.

External resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases

Toll-Free: 1-800-232-4636
TTY: 1-866-874-2646

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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