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Ticks Present Health Dangers to Humans and Animals That Go Well Beyond Lyme Disease

As Lyme Disease gets more media attention and the public becomes more aware of it, it is important to know that there are other tick-borne diseases that have similar symptoms. These diseases can affect horses and dogs as well as humans. Anaplasmosis is an emerging problem in Central Massachusetts as more and more cases are reported each year. In 2015 there were 763 cases of Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, a 26% increase from 2014. (Note: in 2014 there was an 84% increase in Anaplasmosis cases statewide.) Middlesex County lead the way with 168 cases.


Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria transmitted by an infected deer tick, the same tick that transmits Lyme disease. It can be fatal (less than 1%) if not treated properly, even in previously healthy patients.  Symptoms will vary greatly and can include headache, fever, muscle pain, depression, chills, nausea, cough, confusion, or rash (rarely). Symptoms of serious illness can include hemorrhage, difficulty breathing, renal failure or neurological problems.


The Concord Monitor recently reported first-hand experiences with Anaplasmosis that reminded us of the debilitating symptoms it can cause in horses. It is important to remember that our dogs and horses can be affected by most tick-borne disease too.

Symptoms of Anaplasmosis in horses can include fever, loss of appetite, reluctance to move, leg swelling, red spots on gums and eyes, jaundice and lethargy. Fatality from Anaplasmosis is rare in horses. Most recover fully after treatment with antibiotics. If your horse is showing signs of Anaplasmosis, call your veterinarian right away.

Symptoms to watch for in your dog include lameness, joint pain, fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite. In severe cases, you may see vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, labored breathing and neurological signs. If you suspect your dog has Anaplasmosis see your veterinarian. Antibiotic treatment usually leads to a full recovery.

Deer ticks can pass on a variety of pathogens to humans and animals. If you or your pets are showing symptoms, even if you doubt your exposure to ticks, see your doctor or veterinarian. Deer ticks are tiny and often bite us without our being aware.

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass.