You’ve probably heard about Lyme disease. You might know that it’s a potentially fatal tick-borne disease that’s spread by deer ticks. Here in Tennessee, while we do see instances of Lyme disease, we actually see more ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever because the most common tick species found here are the American Dog tick, the Lone Star tick, and the Brown Dog Tick.

Did you know? There are 15 known tick species found in Tennessee. But, not to worry: Belmont Animal Hospital is here to help your pets and family stay safe from these blood-sucking menaces.

How to prevent tick bites

  • Stay on cleared paths if traveling through heavily wooded areas
  • Avoid areas with tall grass, weeds, or heavy leaf litter
  • Check for ticks on all family members after being outside—focus on ears, underarms and legs, spots with hair growth, and under collars or waistbands
  • Know what they look like—young ticks are the size of a poppy seed, while adults only reach the size of an apple seed
  • Speak to your veterinarian about the proper tick prevention for your pet

Ticks to worry about in Tennessee

The three most common ticks found in Tennessee are:

  • American Dog tick — These ticks are dark reddish-brown in color with lighter spots on their backs. Mice appear to be the preferred host for the younger stages, while the adults find dogs and other large mammals tasty. The scariest thing about these ticks is that they can live more than a year without a meal, then head off to spread more disease. These ticks are most likely to be seen in the spring and early summer, lying in wait in brushy, grassy areas along trails. Their favorite diseases to transmit include Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.
  • Lone Star tick — This little bloodsucker is slightly smaller than its buddy, the American Dog tick. A lighter reddish brown, the males and females differ in markings. The Lone Star name comes from the white dot in the center of the female’s back. Mr. Lone Star tick will have some darker streaks on his back, along with white spots or lines along the edges. Be on the lookout in the woods from April to August, as all stages of this tick are aggressive. They will go after you or your pet, and can transmit ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia.
  • Brown Dog tick — This tick, whose name lacks creativity, is a dark reddish-brown, and his favorite host is your best canine friend. The Brown Dog tick likes to hang out with your furry family member in outdoor shelters and barns, on porches, and in backyards. Most commonly out and about during the spring and summer, they spread babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Tick-borne diseases and their signs

Now that we know which ticks are hanging around in the weeds and tall grass, let’s keep an eye out for any signs of two common illnesses they could be spreading.

Tennessee is a hot spot for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Keep your eyes peeled for any signs of bleeding from your dogs (cats don’t seem to get this disease). Check their urine, their stool, and their nose for any signs of blood. Also, check your dog’s gums for pinprick bruises, which can also be a sign of this infection. Vague signs, such as anorexia, lethargy, and fever, are also common. Sometimes your pup won’t want to go on his daily walk because of joint pain. Swelling can also pop up in certain areas, such as the extremities, lips, and ears. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be fatal, so check your dog for ticks regularly and call us if your dog has been bitten.

Depending on which tick gave your dog ehrlichiosis, the signs can vary. If an American Dog tick made a meal out of your pet, you could see a fever, lethargy, poor appetite, bruising and bleeding, eye inflammation, neurologic abnormalities, and lameness. If the Brown Dog tick was the culprit, your dog might still experience fever, lethargy, and neurologic abnormalities, but he might also vomit, have diarrhea, and experience stiffness while walking.

What to do if you have a run-in with a tick

Remove the tick immediately, wash the area, check the rest of your pet thoroughly, and call our office to determine if any testing or interventions are warranted.

Is your pet on an appropriate tick preventive medication? If you have any questions about ticks (or would like us to pronounce “ehrlichiosis” for you), call Belmont Animal Hospital at 615-383-1000 today!