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.
Infection occurs when an infected tick bites a dog and releases the infection into the dog’s bloodstream. It is not necessary that the dog has an infestation a single tick will carry the disease. A single infected tick will give tick fever to a dog. New ticks pick up the infection by biting an infected dog. It is highly contagious since the tick will find another host/ dog and spread the disease. It’s terribly important therefore that the dog is kept in relative isolation to prevent the spread of disease. The dog’s immune system recognizes the infected cells and destroys them leading to anaemia.
Symptoms of tick fever
Initial symptoms will show disinterest, lethargy. The dog will develop a high fever and may start looking pale. Later stages temperature reverses and will consistently stay below the normal range.
A blood test will confirm that the dog has tick fever.
Purely on physical examination its extremely difficult to diagnose either babesiosis or ehrlichiosis because their symptoms mimic those of several other diseases. However, the fact is that 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.
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 will 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.
Treatment of tick fever in the dog
Treatment is aimed at clearing the infection and reversing the anaemia.
Dog gets 1st Imizol / Berenil injection + Doxycyclin 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 if 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 on the amount of food the dog is taking and hydration requirements
Vitamin B and Vitamin K supplements.
2nd Imizol / Berenil injection
Perform another blood test to see condition and determine continuation of treatment
In the initial stage: In case the anaemia is severe and gums show paleness it is critical that IV is 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 the treatment: Depending on the level of anaemia, the condition of the kidneys blood transfusion may be recommended and produce good results.
- After the treatment: In some dogs, a relapse may occur and so it is important to monitor the dog for upto 2 months.
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 and the critical stage at which it is identified. Read more here