Everything You Need to Know About Ehrlichiosis

lone star tick

It is generally known that ticks can cause Lyme disease in dogs. However, ticks also act as a transmitter for the bacteria named Ehrlichia, which causes Ehrlichiosis in dogs. Besides, it can also be transmitted via dog or deer ticks.

This type of bacteria impacts different dog species worldwide. It is also known as tropical canine pancytopenia, canine hemorrhagic fever, rickettsiosis, typhus, and tracker dog disease.

The transmitter tick is commonly known as the “Lone Star Tick.” Lone Star Tick is a carrier of various pathogens that cause southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), tularemia, and Ehrlichiosis.

ehrlichiosis in dogs

Mechanism of Ehrlichiosis

The bacteria infect the white blood cells in the dog’s body. There are several types of Ehrlichia, which can infect an extensive range of animals. Some specific tick species infect the dogs.

Another very similar infection to Ehrlichia is also known as Anaplasma Platys. It affects the platelets. However, different bacteria cause the two illnesses. Anaplasma is caused by the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacteria, whereas Ehrlichiosis occurs due to E. chaffeensis bacteria.
Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis

Just like any other disease, the symptoms of Ehrlichiosis depend on the type of Ehrlichia causing it, as well as the immunity of the dog breed.

Mainly, Ehrlichia Canis results in the most severe infection. It gradually passes through different stages. The severe phase occurs just a few days after the dog gets infected. It is rarely fatal. Recovery is possible at an early stage. After the first stage, the dog enters into subclinical phase. This phase can prolong for years with no visible symptoms. Some dogs tend to pass on to the chronic phase. This phase is marked by very severe sickness.

It might all make sense theoretically. However, it is hard to differentiate between all the phases. The symptoms of Ehrlichiosis include fever, suppressed appetite, sudden weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, inflamed spleen, lethargy, runny eyes, and nose, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Apart from the physical symptoms, it is also associated with neurological symptoms like depression and incoordination. Other dog organs can also be infected in the chronic phase. But, there is mainly a probability of kidney disease.

A small portion of affected dogs suffers from rashes too. Two main types of rash are exhibited by Ehrlichiosis: petechial rashes and red rashes. The petechial rashes include the appearance of small pea size spots due to internal bleeding. The red rashes are less severe and only appear at the surface level.

In the case of Anaplasma, with a lesser platelets count, the symptoms become prevalent between seven to fourteen days of a tick bite.

Diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis

The diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis is challenging. The underlying reason is that the dogs suffering from it might also be infected with other tick diseases, making it harder to be distinguished. Some disorders are in conjunction with Ehrlichiosis, like Babesia. The presence of other conditions can exhibit more severe symptoms, which makes the diagnosis process difficult.

Ehrlichiosis can be diagnosed by testing blood. However, the blood tests will only indicate the reduced number of platelets. Sometimes, the tests may show fewer red or white blood cells, indicating the dog is anemic.

The dog’s blood can also be examined for antibodies to Ehrlichia. However, its results are not 100% accurate all the time.

Ehrlichiosis can also result in a change in protein levels. Blood smears can sometimes be tested to find out the existence of the Ehrlichia bacteria. If the bacteria are active, it might show up on the test. In most cases, its presence cannot be detected by testing the blood smears.

There is a specially designed test for detecting Ehrlichia. However, it is a sensitive test and is posed by certain limitations. Plus, it is not readily available.

In general, the lab tests, along with the apparent symptoms and health history of the dog, are used for diagnosing Ehrlichiosis.

Treatment of Ehrlichiosis

The best available treatment for Ehrlichiosis is an antibiotic named Doxycycline. Consuming any antibiotic other than Doxycycline and Tetracycline can lead to fatal outcomes.

If the course of Doxycycline is initiated at the early stages, it can be beneficial for preventing future complications.

This treatment should be started on mere suspicion in the clinical diagnoses and even before the confirmation from the laboratory arrives.

Why? If the dog is treated within five days of initial suspicion, the fever reduces within twenty-four hours. In case of failure of the ailing dog to react to Doxycycline, it is commonly concluded that the dog may not suffer from Ehrlichiosis.

Preventive treatments for Ehrlichiosis

A simple and straightforward preventive measure for Ehrlichiosis has reduced exposure to ticks that might carry Ehrlichia. You should be extremely careful in the tick season if your dog likes to wander off into the woods and tall grass.

In case of exposure, one must daily inspect their dog and check out for ticks. The tick must feed at least 24-48 hours before the Ehrlichia spreads in the blood and infects the dog. They should be removed as soon as possible. Here’s a step-by-step guide to removing ticks on dogs in case of little exposure.

Ticks preventive products like monthly parasite preventative are readily available in the market. If you want to keep your dog chemical-free, you can also invest in tick collars. However, all these preventive measures should be taken after consulting the vet.

You need to do some work to ensure a lesser availability of parasites! You would have to trim your yard regularly, especially the areas that are prone to ticks. Moreover, the yard and kennel area has to be treated with insecticides and parasite preventatives for ticks.

Please note: The information discussed in the article is for informative purposes. It should not be considered for treating your dog. If your dog shows any symptoms of illness, you should immediately consult the veterinarian.

This is a guest post by James Shore, a part-time dog trainer, and behavior consultant. He is a professional freelancer with years of experience in dog training. He is interested in finding fun ways to handle dog behaviors, specifically Labradors, to help dog owners enjoy their companions at all times. His pet passion led him to develop Labrador Training HQ to help people.


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