What You Need To Know About Tick-Borne Illness

Yes, it’s true – ticks are already here! After only a few short weeks of warmer weather, our flea and tick preventatives are already in high demand!

The past few years we have seen an epidemic of ticks, and I have been asked every question about ticks, tick-borne disease, preventative etc. However the one question I’ve been asked the most is “why are they SO BAD these past few years?” We also know that ticks can carry some nasty diseases – but what exactly are they? And what should you be looking for as a pet owner?

Why are we seeing so many ticks?

Here in CT, we are seeing an increase in deer and rodents, which are the frontline source of food for pests like ticks. They are more apt to carry an increased population of ticks into our more heavily populated areas as they travel in and out of wooded and grassy areas. The more the tick population feeds, the larger the tick population grows.

Industry experts have noticed a more concerning problem: ticks have become increasingly more resistant to many of the traditional pesticide flea and tick preventative treatments. This has brought many pet parents to further research more about these products and the alternative options available.

It is important to note that multiple brands or types of chemical preventatives should NEVER be used in conjunction with one another.  Severe reactions due to overdoses of chemicals or interactions between chemicals can cause harm to you or your pet. Always follow package directions and advice from your veterinarian in regards to these products.

Some research shows that ticks need to feed between 36-48 hours before they are able to transmit disease; however there have also been a few cases of exposure in a shorter time frame.

Types of Tick-Borne Disease

Tick-borne disease, also known as vector-borne disease, is an infection transmitted by the bite of an infected arthropod species such as mosquitoes & ticks.

We most commonly hear about prevention and treatment of Lyme Disease in pets. Lyme disease is transmitted by the Deer Tick and the western Black-Legged Tick, and is an infection of tissues that most commonly leads to lameness. As with many tick-borne diseases, Lyme disease can be very difficult to detect due to varying signs. Lyme disease is zoonotic which means it can infect people and pets.

In humans, we often hear advice to look for a “bulls eye” rash near the site of a tick bite, however in canines and felines that sign would not be apparent. Instead, it’s important to be alert for signs such as:

  • Lameness in the back legs that shifts from leg to leg and lasts for a few days at a time
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reluctance to move
  • Depression
  • Other signs that don’t seem to make sense, or behaviors that are abnormal for your pet are worth a visit to your veterinarian

Ehrlichiosis, also a zoonotic disease, is transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick or the Lone Star Tick. Like Lyme Disease, signs of Ehrlichiosis may not be evident, and different types of infection can produce different signs & symptoms. This is an infection of blood cells that can have an effect on bone marrow function, production of blood cells and immune function. Common signs include:

  • Depression & Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Eye & Nasal discharge
  • Nose Bleeds
  • Bruising of oral mucosa
  • Bruising of abdomen
  • Lameness
  • Joint Pain
  • Other signs that don’t seem to make sense, or behaviors that are abnormal for your pet are worth a visit to your veterinarian.

There are two types of canine Anaplasmosis infection:

The first is an infection of the white blood cells that is transmitted by the Deer tick and the Western Black-Legged tick. Remember that these same ticks transmit Lyme disease, which increases the risk of coinfection with Anaplasmosis. Signs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Lameness/soreness
  • Neurological pain, most commonly the neck

The second is an infection of the blood platelets that eventually leads clotting disorders. This type is transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick. Signs include:

  • Bruising in the mouth and/or abdomen
  • Nosebleeds

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another zoonotic disease found throughout the US & Canada. Many people here in New England think their family or pets are not susceptible to RMSF until they hear of a local infection. RMSF is transmitted by the American Dog Tick or the Long Star Tick. If not treated early, this infection can result in death.

In regards to dogs, RMSF appears suddenly with severe illness that lasts approximately two weeks. Unlike people, dogs do not develop a rash once infected. Common signs include:

  • Arthritis like stiffness when walking
  • Neurological abnormalities
  • General malaise
  • Loss of appetite

Hepatozoonosis can come in two forms, Hepatozoon americanum carried by the Gulf Coast Tick and Hepatozoon canis carried by the Brown Dog Tick. Unlike the other diseases discussed, these two forms are transmitted by a dog ingesting an infected tick.

Signs of Hepatozoon canis infection maybe non-existent or subtle, but can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

Signs of Hepatozoon americanum can be more severe and potentially fatal. This form affects muscle cells which is painful and can result in severe signs including:

  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Muscle atrophy (loss in muscle mass)
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

Babesiosis, transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick, affects red blood cells which causes anemia which causes the immune system to go into overdrive to fight off infection. As a result the dog generally becomes weak. Other signs include:

  • Lameness
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Babesiosis can also be transmitted if an infected dog bites another dog.


Parasites in general seek a host that is not of ideal health. Think about it: humans, dogs or cats that are exceptionally healthy do not generally get sick. However, those that do not take care of themselves, eat less than ideal diets, and have conditions such as obesity, diabetes, kidney disease seem to continually get sick.

The foundation of prevention of ticks and tick-borne disease is to feed a healthful diet. This does not mean to purchase the most expensive pet food on the market with an expectation that your pet will never have ticks again. This means making reasonable and healthful choices for your pet.

These pet food choices include:

  • Looking for whole meat as a first ingredient
  • Eliminating fillers such as corn, wheat & soy
  • Eliminating chemical preservatives & dyes
  • Eliminating sugary & starchy snacks
  • Hydrating any dry kibble diets with bone broth, goat milk, or water
  • Adding fresh meat, vegetables & fruit to your dog’s dish

A simple preventative you can start right away is to add a pinch of granulated garlic to your pet’s food. Fresh garlic is even more effective – chop/crush up a ¼ clove for a small dog, ½ clove for a medium-large dog and a whole clove for dogs over 100lbs.

The myth that garlic is dangerous in any amount comes from the fact that onion can cause anemia, which is true. However, garlic is only toxic to dogs in large amounts, which is pretty much the rule of thumb for almost anything.  While garlic and onion are related, they do not carry the same risks. It is also important to remember that every animal is different and therefore each product has the potential to impact each animal differently.

Garlic is a very effective preventive for tick bites. However, most pet owners want an immediate solution, and garlic can take 2-3 weeks to build up in a dog’s system. Our best advice is to begin using garlic daily for 2-3 weeks and then use 3 times a week for maintenance.

Apple cider vinegar adds acidity to your dog’s blood, making it less appealing to ticks and fleas.

Cedar oil & other essential oils are great customizable options that can help repel fleas, ticks & mosquitos for your pets and your family. One of our ‘house favorites’ is by Earth Animal which offers a full line of pest control for your pets formulated by Dr. Bob Goldstein. This is an all-natural, safe & comprehensive preventative and treatment line with an herbal collar, natural spot-on, shampoo, liquid drop, internal powder and spray.  In particular, Earth Animal pet sprays can replace all chemical flea & tick options making your pet and home chemical free. These products are safe for children and young pets, kill the entire life cycle of an infestation, and are made from 100% natural human grade ingredients.

Diatomaceous Earth is my hands down favorite preventative for fleas & ticks. Every year I faithfully visit our local pool store and buy several buckets of diatomaceous earth to spread all over my lawn. Diatomaceous earth (DE) is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. These tiny particles damage the exoskeleton of parasites like fleas and ticks as they crawl through this white dust which causes them to dehydrate and die. I attribute DE to the success I have had keeping fleas, ticks & mosquitoes off of my pets and out of my house.

The best course of action against any tick-borne disease is prevention of ticks in the first place.

Reach out to info@northpointpets.com with questions or stop in and speak with one of our awesome staff members.

Many of our customers seek products to use in conjunction with spot-ons, flea collars and oral preventatives. All of the following have no known side effects when used with prescription products – however, we recommend consulting your veterinarian prior to using these methods in conjunction with prescription methods with your pet.