2 Canine Diseases Spread By The Brown Dog Tick

Posted on: 6 August 2015

When it comes to ticks, the deer tick has perhaps the worst reputation of all ticks, since it is such a prevalent carrier of Lyme disease. If you are a dog owner, however, there is another kind of tick to be watching out for: the brown dog tick.

Brown dog ticks are a reddish-brown in color, and unlike other tick species, they do not have any noticeable markings. They're about 1/8 inch long and are the only tick species that can complete its entire life cycle indoors in a home. The primary reason to be wary of these ticks is that they can transmit two pretty serious diseases to your dog.


Canine babesiosis is a bacterial infection that can be passed from a tick to a dog through a bite. It may also be passed from one dog to another through biting or contact with oral lesions. Babesiosis symptoms include:

  • Dark urine
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Anemia
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Depression

In some dogs, the symptoms come on quite suddenly and are very severe. Other dogs initially experience milder symptoms, which become progressively worse over time. If your dog is diagnosed with babesiosis, your vet will likely administer a medication called imidocarb dipropionate. Though some dogs do fully recover from the illness, it is more common for the infection to persist at a subclinical level, eventually leading to a relapse.

Canine Hepatozoonosis

This serious and often deadly disease is caused by a species of parasite called Hepatozoon americanum. It can be passed from a tick to a dog not only if the tick bites the dog, but also if the dog happens to ingest an infected tick. Canine hepatozoonosis may cause the following symptoms:

  • Periodic or persistent fever
  • Reluctance to move (extreme stiffness and lethargy)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Anemia
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Noticeable weight loss

Many dog owners do not initially realize anything serious is wrong with their dog, since many dogs continue to eat and drink normally after becoming infected. However, the condition progressively becomes worse and leads to death within several months if left untreated. There is no treatment that will completely cure the disease, but supportive treatment with antiparasitic medications, hydration therapy, and NSAIDs can make a dog more comfortable and increase survival time.

Since there are no vaccines for either of these diseases, the best way to protect your dog is to keep brown dog ticks away. Apply a tick repellent product to your dog on a regular basis as recommended by your vet. If you do see what you think is a brown dog tick in your home, talk to an exterminator. If these ticks take up residence in a home, seeking professional help is often the safest and most effective way to remove them. If you're concerned about your dog's health, visit an animal hospital like My Rancho Bernardo Pet Hospital.


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