Lyme Disease in Pets




A disease that is transmitted by both ticks and fleas is haemobartonellosis. It is caused by an organism that targets red blood cells in the affected animal, leading to anemia and weakness. This condition affects both cats and dogs. In cats, the condition is also known as feline infectious anemia. In dogs, the disease is usually not apparent unless the animal already has underlying issues.


Diagnosis of haemobartonellosis is done by examining blood samples to look for the organism. Specialized lab tests are also available. Treatment with antibiotics must be given for several weeks, and  transfusions may be necessary for some animals.




Also known as rabbit fever, tularemia is caused by a bacteria carried by four varieties of ticks in North America. Fleas may also carry and transmit tularemia to dogs and cats. Cats are usually more affected by this condition than dogs. Symptoms in dogs are reduced appetite, depression, and a mild fever. Cats will exhibit high fever, swollen lymph nodes, nasal discharge, and possibly abscesses at the site of the tick bite. Younger animals are usually at higher risk of contracting tularemia.


Blood tests are generally taken to look for antibodies to the bacteria that cause tularemia, signifying exposure and probable infection. Antibiotics are given to treat this condition in positively identified animals. There is no preventive vaccine for this condition, so keeping cats indoors and using flea and tick control measures are important. Restricting your pet from hunting rodents, rabbits, and animals that carry the disease will also help protect your pet from acquiring the disease.


Babesiosis (Piroplasmosis)


Protozoa, those tiny single celled animal-like organisms, are the parties to blame when dogs and cats are diagnosed with babesiosis. Ticks transmit the protozoan organism to animals, where it sets itself up in the red blood cells, causing anemia. Babesiosis is usually seen in the southern U.S., but can also be found in the northeastern part of the country.


Signs of babesiosis in dogs are typically severe. They include pale gums, depression, dark-colored urine, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. In severe cases, the animal may collapse suddenly and go into shock. Blood and urine tests, as well as specialized diagnostic testing, will be used to look for signs of the organism in the affected animal.


Dogs that survive the disease will usually remain infected and future relapses may occur. There is no vaccine available for protection from babesiosis.




Cats are the species at risk for being infected with cytauxzoonosis. This parasitic disease is transmitted by ticks and is more commonly reported in the south central and southeast United States. Cats typically become very ill when infected, as the parasite affects many parts of the body.


Cats may develop anemia, depression, high fever, difficulty breathing, and jaundice (i.e., yellowing of the skin). Treatment is often unsuccessful, and death can occur in as short as one week following infection.


Immediate and aggressive treatment with specialized drugs, intravenous fluids and supportive care are typically necessary. Cats that recover from cytauxzoonosis may be carriers of the disease for life. There is no vaccine for this disease, so tick prevention is important.


American Canine Hepatozoonosis


Dogs in the south central and southeastern United States are at greater risk for contracting American canine hepatozoonosis (ACH). The Gulf Coast tick carries this particular disease. This tick-borne disease is brought on by the actual ingestion of a nymphal or adult stage tick, rather than by transmission through attachment and biting of the dog's skin by the tick. It is suspected that the ingestion takes place during self grooming, or when the dog eats an infected animal.


Infection is severe and often fatal. Symptoms include high fever, stiffness and pain upon movement, weight loss, and complete loss of appetite. The muscles will begin to waste away, an outward symptom that will become most apparent around the dog’s head. Discharge from the eyes is also very common.


Tests can be done to find the parasites in the dog’s blood, discharge, or muscle tissue. Treatment with anti-parasitic drugs, along with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, is necessary for some time after diagnosis. If the dog recovers, follow-up medication for several years may be necessary, as a relapse of this disease is possible.