Tick fever is a disease that affects dogs and is caused by a blood-borne parasite that is transmitted via ticks. The parasite attaches to the platelets in the blood, which are the cells responsible for blood clotting.
Dogs with tick fever can display one or more of the following signs: lethargy, inappetence, fever, a higher than normal tendency to bleed, respiratory distress or even neurological problems. The tendency to bleed is due to insufficient clotting of the blood because platelets are being destroyed. This also means that dogs that have tick fever and are to undergo surgery are at a higher risk, as surgery will involve cutting into tissue. ‘Normal’ dogs will cope with most of the bleeding themselves as their blood clots well. Dogs with a lack of platelets won’t. This is why, in some cases, a test in which the number of platelets is counted is recommended before doing surgery.
If tick fever is suspected treatment will start with antibiotics to kill the parasite that causes the disease and medicine will be prescribed that suppresses the immune system to reduce the platelet destruction by the dog’s own immune system. The dose of the latter is gradually tapered, but it is recommended that the number of platelets is checked before every step-down in medication. In most cases dogs recover well, provided that treatment is started at an early stage of the disease and the dog can be rested initially.