Okaw Veterinary Clinic LLC

140 West Sale Street
Tuscola, IL 61953



Ticks and Behavior Changes


deer tickTicks are common external parasite - one that latches on to the skin and sucks blood from the host. Any warm blooded creature can pick up a tick and tick season is upon us. Yes, it is early for ticks, but considering the very mild winter this is not surprising. Ticks suck the blood from the host, to fill their body and when engorged after a few days drop off  the host. The engorged tick will continue on the life cycle in the environment.

There are various diseases that will transfer during the blood feeding of the tick. Lyme disease is one that causes chronic illness. Tick paralysis causes a more immediate problem. Seeing an animal suddenly collapse not be able to rise, is a pretty obvious behavior and physical sign that something is wrong. Lyme disease can cause a slower onset of signs such as arthritis, skin rash or kidney problems occasionally the chronic pain will cause aggression in  infected animals.

There have been reported cases of dogs who are typically well mannered, now growling, lunging and attempting to bite. Upon physical exam and blood testing, Lyme disease was discovered. It is thought that the pain from the inflammation that the Lyme disease causes triggers the aggression. Not all dogs who suddenly show aggression have Lyme disease, yet if your dog is showing sudden and marked behavior changes do not delay in having a veterinary examination.   

Pica is another behavior disorder due to the anemia that the ticks cause. The term pica means eating non food items in a repeated way. For example animals who are eating dirt, licking furniture, or metal items daily in an almost compulsive fashion. I have seen anemic dogs eat dirt as if it were food even when food was plentiful. Cats will eat their litter when anemic. This is not just a crazy animal, but a sick one.

Typically ticks will emerge in our woods in the central Illinois region in late April. They are out now so protect your pets now. There are safe and effective medications for both dogs and cats to kill all of the 5 types of ticks, including the tick that carries Lyme disease. Do not wait - I saw ticks just this weekend when hiking with my dog Bella. I quickly gave her Simparica, one of the oral monthly tick medications that kills all of the various tick species. It surprised me at first, then as I thought about the lack of cold weather it made sense. 

There are tests to check for the tick borne diseases that are easy to run. They may be checked with your dog's annual heartworm test. Tests are also available for cats. Treatment for the tick diseases is not too difficult if caught early. If your dog or cat is acting quiet, or a change in behavior be sure to have an examination and any needed tests.


* Image of a tick from www.capcvet.org

- written by Dr. Sally Foote

Okaw Veterinary Clinic
140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953
(217) 253-3221


Mon & Fri 8 am - 6 pm
Tues & Wed 8 am - 5 pm
Sat 8 am - noon
Closed Thurs & Sun

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