Protecting Your Pal From Common Tick Diseases in Pets

A person who just pulled a tick off a dog.

What’s small, has eight legs, and feeds off the blood of humans and animals?

You got it, ticks. These tiny parasites are not only gross, but they can also spread disease to both people and pets. Thanks to an increase in the geographical distribution of ticks throughout the country, tick diseases in pets are being diagnosed with greater frequency in recent years.

Tick-borne illnesses in pets can cause big problems, and may even be life-threatening in some cases, making knowledge of these illnesses an important part of responsible pet ownership.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most well-known of the tick diseases in pets, and is transmitted by the Brown Deer Tick. The tick must be attached to the host for more than 4-8 hours in order to pass along the Lyme disease bacteria, and symptoms (if any) tend to pop up about 2-5 months after the tick bite.

Signs your pet may have Lyme disease include fever, joint pain/swelling, limping, lameness, swollen lymph nodes, and lethargy. Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to detect, and can cause recurring health problems. Your veterinarian can help you to determine if your pet is a good candidate for the Lyme disease vaccine.

Other Tick Diseases in Pets

  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever – Unlike its name, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is not limited to the western United States. The disease, which is carried by the American Dog Tick, Rocky Mountain Wood Tick, and Brown Deer Tick, has been found throughout North, South, and Central America. Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, and loss of appetite.
  • Ehrlichiosis – The Brown Dog Tick is the most common carrier of ehrlichiosis, which can cause fever, respiratory distress, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, and bleeding disorders.
  • Babesiosis – The signs of babesiosis infection include fever, dark urine, weakness, depression, swollen lymph nodes, and sudden collapse.
  • Anaplasmosis – Fever, joint pain, lethargy, and loss of appetite may accompany an anaplasmosis infection.

Year-Round Protection

It can be tempting to skip your pet’s monthly parasite preventive during the colder months, but any lapse in protection puts your pet at risk. Ticks can be brought into Minnesota at any time of the year via tourism, and a few unseasonably warm days may be all that’s needed to bring hibernating tick nymphs out of hiding. It’s also important to note that Lyme disease-carrying ticks remain active as long as the temperature is above freezing.

In addition to a monthly parasite prevention protocol, be sure to check your pet for ticks each time they come in from outside. If you find a tick, remove it by grasping the head with a pair of tweezers and pulling straight out, being careful not to squeeze. Drown the tick in rubbing alcohol or flush it down the toilet to dispose of it.

If you have further questions about tick diseases in pets, or need to make an appointment for your furry friend, don’t hesitate to contact your partners in pet care at The Bluffs Pet Clinic.

Thanks to an increase in the geographical distribution of ticks throughout the country, tick diseases in pets are being diagnosed with greater frequency in recent years.

Recommendations for Protecting Your Pets From Fleas & Ticks

Three dogs out in the grass

Spring has finally returned, but, unfortunately, that means that so have the fleas and ticks. As flea and tick treatments are always evolving, our own Dr. Darlene Cook, DVM, CVA wanted to share with you her current recommendations for flea and tick prevention for your pets. While we do recommend your pets be on monthly preventatives year-round, Doctor Cook also includes some recommendations for those who use spring through autumn prevention.


Flea and Tick Prevention 101

An older dog scratching itselfFleas and ticks are one of the last things most of us want to think about, but these creepy-crawlies can pose some serious health risks to your pets. They’re more than just annoying—as it turns out, fleas, ticks, and the diseases they carry can be passed to the human members of the family as well.

Year-round flea and tick prevention is an important part of pet health and wellness care. Your partners in pet care at The Bluffs Pet Clinic are here to help you every step of the way as you learn about protecting your pets and family from fleas and ticks.


While fleas are found in many places, one of the most likely sources in our area is rabbits. If you have rabbits in your yard or anywhere that your pet frequents, then they are at risk. One female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, which can quickly lead to a full scale infestation. Fleas are easily passed from one pet to another, to household furnishings, and even to people.

Although we associate fleas with annoying itching, they can also cause some serious health concerns for pets and people. Some pets are severely allergic to flea saliva, resulting in an allergic skin reaction called dermatitis. Dermatitis causes severe itching and can lead to hot spots and skin infections.

In addition to dermatitis, fleas can also transmit tapeworm and certain bacterial diseases such as Bartonellosis (cat scratch fever) to both pets and humans. If the infestation is severe enough, it can also lead to anemia in your pet.


Unlike fleas, ticks are not insects, but rather more closely related to spiders. Ticks tend to hide in grass and shrubs, waiting for a warm-blooded host to wander by. Ticks burrow their heads into their host animal’s skin and feed on the plentiful blood supply.

Ticks pose a much greater health risk to pets and humans because they are more likely to transmit serious diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and tick borne encephalitis.

Year-Round Flea and Tick Prevention

Contrary to popular belief, flea and tick prevention is not a seasonal affair. Even here in Minnesota where the winters seem like they’ll never end, fleas and ticks can still affect our pets. In the winter, ticks hibernate in the trees and will come out as soon as the snow melts around the base of the trees. The warm, dry environments of our homes are the perfect climate for small critters like fleas and ticks to thrive. The constant influx of pets and people who travel from other climates causes a constant influx of external parasites, as well.

As with most health issues, prevention is always preferable to treating the effects of a flea infestation or tick bite. Fortunately, there are a variety of products on the market that provide pets with year-round protection. If your pet hasn’t yet started on a monthly flea and tick prevention regimen, please give us a call for more information.

Other Ways to Protect Your Pet

Along with preventive treatment, there are plenty of other ways you can help to keep your pets safe from external parasites:

  • Fleas and ticks often make their homes in tall grasses and weeds. Cutout their available habitat by keeping your yard trimmed and free of weeds and debris.
  • Inspect your pet from head to toe after he or she has been outside, and remove any ticks immediately.
  • Bathe and groom your pet on a regular basis.
  • Be sure to wash your pet’s bedding in hot water weekly, as it can be a breeding ground for bacteria, fungus, and parasites.

Your veterinarian should be your first line of defense against pet parasites. Please contact us with any questions or for more information. We are more than happy to address your questions and concerns regarding flea and tick prevention.

The Importance of Heartworm Protection for Pets

A black and tan dog laying in the grassMost pet owners have heard of heartworm, but few of us understand what it is and the danger it poses to our pets. In colder climates, such as here in Minnesota, heartworm just doesn’t seem like a big risk, causing many pet parents to put year-round parasite prevention on the back burner.

April is Heartworm Awareness Month, and the team at The Bluff’s Pet Clinic would like to take this opportunity to share with our readers the importance of heartworm protection for all pets.

Getting to Know Heartworm

Heartworm is present in all 48 contiguous states and Hawaii, as well as throughout the temperate regions of the world, and poses a serious risk to canine and feline health.

Heartworm is caused by the parasitic worm Dirofilaria immitis, and is transmitted by mosquitoes that have fed on an infected animal, such as a dog, cat, coyote, raccoon, opossum, or wolf. The worms take up residence in the heart, lungs, and accompanying blood vessels, wreaking havoc on the internal organs as they grow and reproduce over a period of several months or years.

Heartworm in dogs can be treated if caught early enough, but treatment is expensive and painful, and often requires months of confinement.

A Word About Cats

Cats are considered an atypical host for heartworm, meaning they’re not as physiologically compatible with the disease as dogs. This is why there are fewer cases of heartworm in cats, but it’s also the why there is no effective treatment for feline heartworm. It only takes a few worms for the disease to be fatal.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms commonly associated with heartworm disease include:

  • Coughing or asthma-like symptoms
  • Labored breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of interest in play or exercise
  • Weight loss

Heartworm Protection for Dogs and Cats

It wasn’t that long ago that preventing heartworm in pets was expensive and time consuming. Today, heartworm protection is as simple as a monthly preventive medicine, and is all that is required to keep your dog or cat disease-free. Most heartworm preventives also include medications designed to kill common intestinal parasites, giving you even more reason to keep your pet on the preventive all year long.

If you haven’t started your dog or cat on a monthly heartworm preventive medication, or are in need of a refill, please contact the staff at The Bluffs Pet Clinic today!