BEAN STATION — The Davidsons took their dog Riley everywhere.

"He liked to ride in the car. He loved to go camping with us every summer."

The seven year-old pup was a part of the Bean Station family.

"You love them just like you would love a human," Faith Davidson said.

They never thought a bite from a tick would take him away.

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"I never imagined that a little tiny tick could cause so much damage and be so life-threatening."

Faith's mom Jama Davidson spotted the tick a couple weeks earlier. She didn't think much of it at the time--they thought Riley was up-to-date on his flea and tick medication and they had seen ticks on dogs before.

But Riley's tick was particularly dangerous. He contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease and got sick.

"It got so bad that we had to syringe feed him baby food just so he got some nutrition," Faith said.

Riley's liver began to fail.

Jama said his last few weeks were heartwrenching.

"Watching him dwindle away and just sort of go slowly and know we were doing everything we could but it wasn't enough."

Riley died when the family was at church one day in June.

It's a scary scenario that could be getting more common in East Tennessee.

Veterinarian Dr. Cathy Bridges says the tick population has gotten much larger over the past five years because recent winters haven't been cold enough to kill them off.

Normally, pets can combat the disease with ordinary antibiotics, but Bridges says proper preventative medication can make all the difference.

"There is nothing we can do to our pets to prevent the fleas and ticks from jumping on, short of putting them in a coat of armor. But the goal is to prevent disease transmission and these products do that well."

The Davidson family still can't believe Riley is gone--and that a tick is to blame.

"You get used to coming home and the dog jumping and being so excited to greet you," Faith Davidson said. "We don’t have that anymore. We keep coming home expecting it to be there but it’s not.