Most people are probably well aware that a tick's destructiveness bears no relation to its miniscule size. These eight-legged critters attach themselves to your dog and pass along bacteria as they feed. One type of bacteria ticks carry is called Rickettsia rickettsii. These bacteria transmit the disease Rocky Mountain spotted fever (which -- despite its name and area of origin -- has made its way to both U.S. coasts).
Once inside your pet's circulatory system, Rickettsia rickettsii multiply quickly. Your dog may develop symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, red eyes, vision problems or bleeding.
Dogs can pass Rocky Mountain spotted fever to humans, but not directly. The tick that rode into your house on your dog also has to bite you in order for you to become infected. You can also get the condition if you come into contact with the tick while trying to remove it from your dog and you have an open wound.
In people, Rocky Mountain spotted fever typically causes a signature red, spotted rash. Other symptoms include a high fever (between 102 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38.9 to 40 degrees Celsius), joint swelling, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and possible neurological problems. The disease can become serious enough to require hospitalization, but antibiotics can cure both pets and their owners.
To prevent this potentially dangerous disease, check your pet -- and yourself -- for ticks whenever you return from a walk in a wooded area. Spray yourself with an insect repellant containing the ingredient DEET on your skin, or one containing permethrin on your clothes before going out. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, and tuck your pant legs into your socks. Also make sure your dog is up-to-date on its flea and tick control medication.