Ticks are a common pest to animals and humans, having the ability to transfer diseases regardless of whether the target has two legs or four. You’ll no doubt have heard of Lyme Disease, a tick transmitted illness, but did you know it can also affect dogs and horses? Cats can also contract Lyme Disease, although it’s pretty rare. In recent years, there’s been reported cases of Lyme Disease caused by ticks in Europe, Asia and North America for both dogs and humans. Transmitted mainly by the American Dog Tick, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another tick borne illness, which again, can affect humans and dogs. While this is perhaps less well known than Lyme Disease, it can become just as serious if untreated. So, when you travel with your pet cat or dog, it’s really important that they’re protected from tick transmitted diseases. Preventing ticks from feeding on your cat or dog is a vital component of pet travel safety, health and wellbeing. Preventative measures to deter ticks, such as Bravecto for cats and dogs, and a Scalibor Dog Protection Band are super important if you’re travelling to a region where ticks with diseases are present. First and foremost, always speak to your veterinarian, who’ll devise an action plan to keep your pet safe in your selected destination. Keep reading to find out more about tick diseases, and ways to protect your cat or dog when you take an international pet travel trip.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Table of contents
- What Diseases Can Ticks Transmit to Cats & Dogs?
- Which Countries have Ticks with Lyme Disease?
- Which Tick Species Can Transmit Lyme Disease?
- Symptoms of Lyme Disease from Ticks to Cats & Dogs
- Protecting Cats & Dogs from Ticks
- Related Pages
What Diseases Can Ticks Transmit to Cats & Dogs?
While Lyme Disease is a pretty infamous tick borne disease, it’s not the only threat to humans and animals. Ticks can transmit the following diseases to cats and dogs, so a tick repelling treatment or collar is vital when you travel on an international vacation with your pet:
There are many other disease transmitted to pets by ticks, but these tend to be the most common or well-known.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Tick Paralysis
|Tick Species||Other Names||Latin Name||Diseases||Locations|
|American Dog Tick||Rocky Mountain Wood Tick |
|Dermacentor variabilis||Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever |
|Rocky Mountains |
|Black Legged Tick||The Bear Tick|
The Deer Tick
|Eastern & North Midwest USA|
South Eastern Canada
|Brown Dog Tick||Kennel Tick|
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
|Castor Bean Tick||Ixodes ricinus||Lyme Disease|
Tick Borne Encephalitis
|Groundhog Tick||Woodchuck Tick||Ixodes|
|Powassan encephalitis||Eastern & Central US|
|Lone Star Tick||Cricket Tick|
North Eastern Water Tick
|South Eastern & Eastern USA|
|Ornate Cow Tick||Marsh Tick|
Ornate Dog Tick
|Eastern and Western Europe (especially Poland and Belarus, and coastal areas of the UK & Western France)|
|Western Black Legged Tick||Ixodes pacificus||Bartonellosis|
Otherwise known as Dog Fever or Tick Fever, Anaplasmosis is transmitted to cats, dogs, humans and farm animals by deer tick bites. It affects the blood-clotting cells known as platelets, and is common throughout the US and Canada. This tick-borne disease is also present in Europe, including popular pet travel destinations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal. So, it’s vital to protect your cat or dog from ticks carrying Anaplasmosis disease when travelling to many different parts of the world.
Multiple tick species carry Babesiosis, while there’s also some evidence that animal to animal transmission can occur, when an infect dog with oral lesions bites another pet. Dogs typically present with the acute, severe form of Babesiosis, which is characterized by findings such as abnormally dark urine, fever, weakness, pale mucous membranes, depression, swollen lymph nodes, and an enlarged spleen.
Also caused by fleas, Bartonellosis is more commonly known as Cat Scratch Disease (CSD).
If a cat or dog is infected with Baronella bacteria by a tick or flea, they can develop Bartonellosis. Symptoms of Bartonellosis in cats and dog can be:
- Loss of Appetite
- Redness & swelling at bite/scratch site
Should an infected cat scratch, bite or lick an open wound of a human, they too can develop Cat Scratch Disease (CSD). After the event, signs of human CSD infection can occur within 3 to 14 days.
Different species, such as the Lone Star Tick, Brown Dog Tick and the Black Legged Tick, can transmit Ehrlichiosis to pets and humans. In dogs, this tick-borne disease is known as Ehrlichia canis, and symptoms include fever, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Both cats and dogs can develop Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RSM), but, like many vector-borne diseases, it’s more prevalent in canines. Caused by tick bites infected with Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever disease in dogs and humans is prevalent in many parts of the US and Canada. However, this disease can’t be passed from infected dogs to humans.
The American Dog Tick, or Deer Tick, is well-known in the US and Canada as the prime suspect of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever disease in dogs. Named accordingly, the American Dog Tick prefers dog hosts to all others, and is therefore more likely to pass Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever bacteria to a dog. Like many other tick to pet transmissions, the bacteria is carried by different types of ticks in different parts of the world. The American Dog Tick is the most dominant transmitter of Rocky Mountain Fever disease in dogs.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to recognise symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in your dog, as they may only present with one outward sign, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Therefore, the veterinarian will be interested in the pet’s level of tick exposure. For example, if your dog has daily walks in woodland areas in specific locations, they may be more susceptible to bites from the American Dog Tick. If you’ve been hiking along the Pacific Coast with your dog, the veterinarian will test for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
With Tick Paralysis Disease, rather than transmitting bacteria as they feed on a cat, dog or human, the tick secretes a paralysing poison. This tick-borne disease is fatal due to respiratory or heart failure if left un-treated, and it’s seen as a significant threat to pet health. Yet another reason to protect your cat or dog against tick borne disease when you travel.
Tick Paralysis Disease is found in over 40 tick species worldwide, and has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of farm animals. Cases in humans and domestic pets are rarer, although the disease is more commonly found in children under the age of ten. Cats or dogs infected with Tick Paralysis Disease tend to have lame back legs.
Which Countries have Ticks with Lyme Disease?
The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) regularly reports on tick borne disease, and found that Lyme disease is most frequently reported from the upper midwestern and northeastern United States. Some cases are also reported in northern California, Oregon, and Washington.
In 2015, 95% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 14 states:
- New Hampshire
But, Lyme Disease is present in many other countries, so when you travel with your cat or dog, it’s vital that you know if there’s ticks with Lyme Disease bacteria present. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted the problem with Lyme Disease carrying ticks in Europe. If you travel to Central Europe with your pet, Lyme Disease is particularly prevalent in:
- the Czech Republic
However, be aware that these countries only have the highest incidences, Lyme Disease is present across Europe, including Spain, Portugal, France, Greece & Italy. Ticks with Lyme Disease bacteria are also found in Asia.
Which Tick Species Can Transmit Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is spread by ticks carrying the spiral shaped Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. The first human case of Lyme Disease was discovered in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut, hence the name. However, the first Lyme Disease case in a domestic animal wasn’t until almost 30 years later, when a dog in Port au Port Peninsula in Western Newfoundland was diagnosed.
The Black Legged Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) and Western Black Legged Tick (Ixodes pacificus), are known to be the most prominent carriers of Lyme Disease bacterium.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease from Ticks to Cats & Dogs
These tiny critters tend to be 1mm-1cm in length, and therefore can easily be missed. They are active year round, but tend to be more prominent from Spring to Autumn. Once they sink their fangs into a mammalian host, they feast on blood for a few days then drop off once they are full.
Ticks have three hosts during their life cycle:
- Tick Larvae hatch from eggs. Larvae feeds on small mammal host, such as a rat. Larvae drops of rat when full, and transforms into a Tick Nymph.
- Tick Nymph feeds on a larger mammal, such as a cat, deer, dog or human. Nymph drops of host when full, and transforms into an Adult Tick.
- Adult Tick feeds on third and final mammal host. Tick falls off when full and lays eggs.
While ticks can transfer many illnesses to pet cats and dogs, there are some common symptoms across tick-borne diseases.
Signs to look out for are:
- Loss of Appetite
- Pale Gums
- Swollen Joints
- Low Energy
Protecting Cats & Dogs from Ticks
It’s common for ticks to frequent grassy areas, such as woodlands, parks and hiking trails. They tend to perch on the tip of long blades of grass, waiting to attach themselves to any animal that brushes past.
So if you have a garden lawn, it’s best to try to keep it short. They can’t fly or jump, they can only climb or drop onto a passing cat or dog.
After a walk, particularly if you’ve been in a grassy area, run your hands along your dog’s coat and check for any small bumps. Ticks tend to favour a dog’s ears, neck, head and feet. If you spot a tick, it’s important to remove it safely and quickly. This can be a tad tricky, as you have to ensure the tick’s head doesn’t stay stuck in your dog. In addition, squeezing a tick’s body can cause it to expel its blood back into your dog which increases the risk of infection. You can purchase a tick removal tool from your veterinarian to make it easier.
When you travel with your cat or dog, a tick repelling collar is important to keep your pet safe, along with regular medication to keep ticks at bay. In Portugal, we use the following products for our cats and dogs.
- A Scalibor Dog Protection Band Deters ticks from attaching to your pooch for 5-6 months. It’s also effective against mosquitoes, fleas and sandflies, so a great all rounder.
- Bravecto for Dogs Available in topical or chew form, each dose is effective for 12 weeks and protects your dog from both ticks and fleas.
- Bravecto Plus for Cats Lasts 8 weeks, and keeps felines safe from ticks, fleas, intestinal worms, and Heartworm.
As always, your veterinarian should decide the best medication and treatment when you’re travelling with your cat or dog to an international destination. They will check the presence of tick borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease, to ensure your cat or dog is protected.