Ehrlichiosis in dogs

Ehrlichiosis in dogs

Ehrlichiosis is a tick born disease in dogs that can be caused by several different organisms. In most cases, the dog has been infected by Ehrlichia canis, but ehrlichiosis can also be caused by Ehrlichia chaffeensis or Anaplasma phagocytophilum (formerly Ehrlichia equi). Canine Ehrlichiosis is known under a wide range of names, including canine typhus, canine rickettsiosis, tracker dog disease, canine hemorrhagic fever, and tropical canine pancytopenia.

Despite being a problem primarily for dogs, cats and humans can also become infected by Ehrlichiosis. Some studies indicate that German Shepherd dogs might be specially prone to Ehrlichiosis. If your dog develops Ehrlichiosis, the prognosis is good if it received proper medical care in time. If the disease reaches its chronic stage, the risk for the dog is higher. If bone marrow suppression sets in and the amount of blood cells drops, some dogs will not respond at all to treatment.

Ehrlichiosis transmission

Ehrlichiosis is transmitted to dogs by the brown dog tick. It is theoretically possible for a human to get canine Ehrlichiosis, but not from spending time with an infected dog since the disease is transmitted by ticks, not by ordinary contact.

Ehrlichiosis stages in dogs

There are three stages of Ehrlichiosis. The first stage is known as the acute stage, the second stage is the subclinical stage, and the third stage is the chronic phase. During the subclinical phase, the dog will normally display no signs of illness. Some dogs stay in the subclinical stage for the rest of their lives; they are infected with the parasite but they show no signs of it. Other dogs manage to kill off all the parasites during the subclinical phase. If the disease progresses into the third, chronic stage, the situation becomes very serious for the dog since chronic Ehrlichiosis can be deadly. 

Ehrlichiosis symptoms in dogs

The acute stage of ehrlichiosis is common during the warm season, since this is when ticks are active and suck blood from dogs. The symptoms of acute ehrlichiosis normally appear 1-3 weeks after the bite and last for 2-4 weeks. The acute stage can however occur several weeks after infection. An infected dog can suffer from discharge from the nose and eyes, oedema of the legs and scrotum, bleeding disorders, vasculitis, lymphadenopathy, petechiae, and fever.

If the Ehrlichiosis disease develops into a chronic stage, the dog can begin suffering from lameness, weight loss, coughing, anaemia that causes pale gums, thrombocytopenia that causes bleedings, lameness, vasculitis, dyspnea, lymphadenopathy, polyuria, polydipsia, neurological problems, and eye problems such as retinal haemorrhage and anterior uveitis.

Ehrlichiosis prevention

Limit your dog’s access to tick infested habitats. When your dog has visited a tick infested habitat, check it for ticks and remove any ticks immediately. Ideally, check your dog for ticks several times per day if you live in an area where canine Ehrlichiosis occurs. In addition to this, you can decrease the risk of tick bites by applying a topical anti-tick treatment, such as  Fiprinol or Permethrin, or by giving your dog an anti-tick collar. 

In areas highly affected by Ehrlichiosis, a low dose of tetracycline taken daily during the warm season can be used to prevent the disease. Keep in mind that it will need to be used for up to 200 days, depending on the length of the tick season.   

Ehrlichiosis treatment

A dog suffering form Ehrlichiosis needs to be given antibiotics such as doxycycline or tetracycline for at least 6-8 weeks. It can be necessary to administer fluids intravenously or subcutaneously to combat dehydration, and anaemic dogs can need a blood transfusion. If the level of pallets have dropped dangerously low, steroids can be helpful.

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