Ticks and tick-borne diseases part 2

Not every human or animal falls ill after a tick bite, even if the tick was infected with pathogens and these were transmitted during the bite. An efficient, competent immune system can certainly cope with pathogens. But not everyone has such an immune system and unfortunately it does not tell us when it is borderline loaded with other pathogens and no longer has the capacity to fight the pathogens transmitted after a tick bite. And this can sometimes even be several species at the same time.

Infection takes time. Early detection reduces the likelihood of the disease (© JerzyGorecki – Pixabay)

Tick prophylaxis is important

Ticks bite humans as well as horses, dogs or cats. However, by far not all individuals are infested by ticks. Some animals are almost magically attracted to ticks, while others are hardly ever bitten by them. If an illness occurs after a sting, the therapy can sometimes take a long time, and a complete recovery is not always possible. A fatal outcome is not excluded, although it is very rare. This can occur, for example, as a result of shock or organ failure. Effective drugs such as imidocarb or doxycycline are also associated with the risk of sometimes considerable side effects. Therefore, tick prophylaxis is of considerable importance. Although the protection is not one hundred percent, it significantly reduces the likelihood of transmission of pathogens. Which means can be used in individual cases, should be discussed with the treating veterinary practitioner or veterinarian. Regardless of this, the most important measure is daily scanning, because without a tick there is no infection.

All tick-borne diseases require veterinary attention. Nevertheless, naturopathic treatment can contribute a great deal to the success of the treatment. For example, by supporting the immune system and mitigating symptoms or side effects of medication, conventional pain medication can be turned down. The involvement of a well-trained veterinary practitioner is therefore in any case useful to keep the burden on the organism as low as possible and to promote recovery.

Early detection improves therapy options

In order to be able to intervene and start therapy as quickly as possible, it is important for pet owners to know the symptoms of the respective diseases. Especially in the beginning they are mostly unspecific. Can also have other causes. In case of suspicion, the animal should be thoroughly examined for tick infestation, any ticks found should be removed and the veterinarian should be consulted. It is helpful to keep removed ticks. A laboratory can determine whether pathogens are present at all and if so, which ones. Then the vet knows the enemy against which he fights with his therapy. If the tick is not infected, there is at least in terms of tick diseases all-clear.

The common wood tick (Ixodes ricinus) transmits several tick diseases (© Erik_Karits – Pixabay)


Carrier of anaplasmosis (actually granulocytic anaplasmosis) is the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytohylum. The intermediate host is Ixodes ricinus, the common wood tick, the most common tick species in our country. Dogs and cats are susceptible, but other mammals, including humans, can also contract anaplasmosis. How long the tick has to sit on the host for a transmission to take place, there are different indications (about 24 to 48 hours).

Anaplasma infects and destroys the neutrophil granulocytes in the blood. They belong to the white blood cells. Are an important part of the immune system. The symptoms are not very specific and often appear long after the infection, because the incubation period is between a few days and a few weeks. In case of these symptoms, which do not all have to be present at the same time, an examination for Anaplasma should be carried out.

– sudden fever – lethargy – liver and spleen swelling – loss of appetite – joint swelling – joint inflammation

The detection of an infection is done by blood tests. Either by antibody tests or by PCR test. The latter is only reliably meaningful if the infection is detected in the early stages. A negative PCR result is therefore not an all-clear. A parallel examination for borreliosis is recommended, because a simultaneous infection (co-infection) with borrelia is common.

The hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus) transmits TBE pathogens, but also Borrelia (© Wikimedia )

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is also a bacterial infection. Pathogens are Borrelia (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu latu), which like Anaplasma are transmitted by the bite of the common wood tick. Susceptible to it are humans, but also dogs, cats and horses. Borrelia pass through the saliva of the tick from its intestine into the host organism, whereby the infection usually occurs within about 24 to 72 hours after the bite. Often the immune system is able to cope with the pathogen in the early stage of the infection. So not everyone who is infected with Borrelia gets sick. In dogs, the majority of infections pass without causing disease. However, no immunity develops either, d.h. After each tick bite there is a new risk.

When an illness occurs, it can proceed in three different phases. The first symptom (phase I) that indicates a possible disease is the wandering redness, which appears between the third and 30th day of pregnancy. The infection may occur on the 10th day after infection. It is easily visible in fair-skinned people, but even in fair-skinned animals it is difficult or impossible to detect through the fur. Often the symptoms do not go beyond this stage. In severe and chronic cases, however, considerable damage to various organ systems can occur weeks to months (phase II) or even years (late stage) after infection. It starts with rather unspecific symptoms:

– Lymph node swelling – Fever – Loss of appetite – Lethargy – Lameness – Muscle inflammation (myositis) – Swelling and inflammation of the joints (polyarthritis) – Neurological deficits – Kidney inflammation (nephritis) – Heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis)

A long incubation period and the wide range of possible symptoms make diagnosis difficult. It is carried out by antibody tests. Antibodies are not formed until two to six weeks after infection, which is why the test should be repeated at intervals of about 10 days if the result is negative. If detected early, Lyme disease can be treated well with antibiosis. If the disease is diagnosed late, treatment is difficult and protracted.

Ticks and tick-borne diseases part 2

In addition to the wood tick and hedgehog tick, the alluvial forest tick (Dermacentor reticularis) transmits TBE (© mirkograul – stock.adobe. The causative virus is again transmitted by the common wood tick. Is especially dangerous for humans. But occasionally an infection is. disease has also been described for dogs. Especially large and probably immunocompromised dogs can develop symptoms. The disease begins with very high fever of over 40 degrees. The behavior changes and the dog can become lethargic as well as aggressive and overexcitable. In the course it comes to

– seizures – paralysis – strabismus – pupil constriction (miosis) – hypersensitivity to pain in the area of the head and neck

In very severe cases, the disease is fatal after four to seven days.

If the symptoms occur after a stay in areas where TBE is prevalent – which in our case is mainly southern Germany – a diagnosis by antibody detection can only provide limited certainty, because it is only of limited value. The result can be positive without disease because many dogs have antibodies in their blood. In addition, there are false-positive results due to cross-reactions with related viruses. In case of a positive test result, therefore, additional laboratory parameters must be collected to confirm the diagnosis.

In Germany there is a risk primarily in the south. The Austrian Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection describes Austria as one of the most affected countries in Europe. Switzerland is also affected, with the exception of the cantons of Geneva. Ticino area at risk. There is now a vaccination for humans, but not for animals.

The current map of TBE risk areas in Germany can be found here


Babesiosis is sometimes also called dog or horse malaria. The causative agent of babesiosis is not bacteria, but babesia, tiny single-celled blood parasites (piroplasmas), of which there are several species. The most important ones, Babesia canis in dogs and Babesia equi in horses, are transmitted by the already known common wood tick (Ixodes ricinus) and by the alluvial tick (Dermacentor reticularis). Unlike the previously mentioned tick-borne diseases, transmission can also occur through blood transfusion and prenatally to the puppies in pregnancy, and direct transmission after bite wounds and ingested blood cannot be ruled out with absolute certainty.

Babesiosis used to be considered a pure travel or Mediterranean disease. In the meantime, animal. Humans can also be infected with it in our country. Eight to 72 hours after being bitten by an infected tick, the pathogens are transmitted. The incubation period until the appearance of the first symptoms is given as six to 20 days after infection, but can also deviate from this in individual cases. The course of the disease is influenced by

– the type of babesia – the age – the immune status – previous illnesses

The spleen plays an important role. If it has been previously removed from the diseased individual, for example due to a tumor, the course is much more severe. Likewise with pre-illnesses of the kidneys.

Babesia attacks the blood by destroying the red blood cells (erythrocytes). In the body and in the organs this leads to an oxygen undersupply up to possible shock conditions. In addition, there are blood coagulation disorders, the fluidity of the blood changes, the kidneys are damaged. The course of the disease can be peracute, acute, chronic or subclinical. Most frequently, babesiosis runs an acute course and is manifested by

– fever – lethargy – loss of appetite – anemia – jaundice – bloody urine (Attention: Emergency !!)

A chronified babesiosis manifests itself over months by:

– Weakness – emaciation – fever attacks – apathy

Complications may include: Acute renal failure, life-threatening anemia, epileptiform seizures, coma, shock, pulmonary edema, peracute course.

If babesiosis is suspected, the pathogen is diagnosed using a PCR test, which may be supplemented by additional tests. For treatment, heavy artillery in the form of drugs must be used, which can have strong side effects.

ticks and tick-borne diseases part 2

Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sp.) (© Goldfinch4ever – istockphoto.com)

Ehrlichiosis (CME/Canine Monocytic Ehrlichiosis)

Ehrlichia is a bacteria transmitted by the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). This tick does not (yet) survive permanently in the field in our latitudes. An infection with ehrlichiosis occurs in our country rather in indoor heated rooms all year round, which offer the brown dog tick living conditions, under which it can multiply and build up stable populations as a souvenir from travels in Mediterranean countries.

Ehrlichia canis attacks the white blood cells. After an incubation period of eight to 20 days, there is an outbreak of the disease, which is also known as tick fever. In the acute phase of the disease, which lasts two to four weeks, the animals show a reduced general condition associated with a lack of energy

– fevers – pale mucous membranes – bleeding – apathy – enlargement of the spleen

If the infection is not treated, after an intermediate subclinical stage, chronic ehrlichiosis may develop, accompanied by

– bleeding – edema – fatigue – emaciation – swelling of spleen and lymph nodes – joint diseases – neurological disorders.

Often this occurs only years after infection and is not associated with long past stays abroad (for example, in animals from foreign animal protection), which continue to be the main source of infection. Unfortunately, this is the stage at which ehrlichiosis is usually first diagnosed. While it is easily treatable in the acute stage by antibiosis, it is much more complex later on. German Shepherd, Doberman, Siberian Husky are considered to be particularly susceptible. Humans can also develop ehrlichiosis.

Diagnosis is made by antibody tests as well as by PCR test. Therapeutically, ehrlichiosis is treated by antibiosis over a longer period of time, but is not always cured. To make matters worse, infection with Babesia and Anaplasma may be present at the same time.

Tip: Both the Robert Koch Institute and the University of Hohenheim (only in the case of suspected Hyalomma) are happy to receive ticks for mapping and research.

Crimean-Congo fever

Crimean-Congo fever is a viral disease associated with chills, irritability, muscle, limb and abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bleeding and other symptoms, and can be fatal in up to 50 percent of cases. This disease is only mentioned here in passing because the transmitting Hyalomma ticks (Hyalomma marginatum and Hyalomma rufipes) have already been found in Germany and have presumably even overwintered, but the probability of being bitten by this species is extremely low due to its still very rare occurrence. Native to Asia and Africa. Learn more about this tick here.

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