Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Earlier this week one of my coworkers had to take her dog, Belle, to the vet for a routine checkup. While testing Belle’s blood for her annual heartworm test, the vet ran tests for Lyme and Ehrlichiosis because of the high number of ticks this season. While Belle wasn’t displaying any symptoms of a tick-borne illness, tests showed that she did indeed have Ehrlichiosis. Luckily, Belle is on her way to a full recovery through a series of antibiotics.

Brown Dog Ticks like this one are Vectors for Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is transmitted to dogs through the bite of brown dog ticks. Brown dog ticks are present throughout the United States and primarily feed on dogs, but do sometimes bite people. Unlike other ticks, they are commonly found indoors hiding in cracks, under rugs and furniture and on walls. Brown dog ticks are often called kennel ticks because they were commonly found in kennels across the U.S.

Once infected with Ehrlichiosis, there are three phases of the disease. The first, the acute state, starts a few weeks after transmission and lasts for up to a month. While some dogs may have lower blood counts during this time, the most common symptom is fever.

The second phase is called the subclinical phase and has no outward symptoms. In many cases, dogs stay in this phase for years, if not the rest of their life. While they are infected with the bacteria, they show no outward signs and some canines are able to successfully fight off the disease.

The third and most serious phase of Ehrlichiosis is the chronic stage. Dogs in the chronic phase will show symptoms including, weight loss, pale gums, lameness and coughing. In rare cases, when the dog doesn’t respond to treatment, Ehrlichiosis can be fatal.

Belle’s vet told my coworker that this year, as compared to the past, has brought a higher number of Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis diagnoses in canines. While dogs respond well to treatment for both diseases, the best way to protect your furry friend from becoming ill is to protect them against tick bites. Topical tick medication will kill (and sometimes repel depending on your brand) ticks when they bite your dog. If you want added protection, try tick control in your yard. Mosquito Squad’s barrier spray and tick tubes will get to the ticks, before they get to our dogs. Contact your local Squad if you want to learn more about our tick control options.

If you are worried that your dog may have contracted a tick-borne disease, make sure to ask your vet to do a blood test on your next visit.

And just because no dog post is complete without a picture of a dog and I don’t have a picture of Belle, here’s one of Wiley and his big ears.

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  1. #1 by Chris Taylor on September 21, 2012 - 7:23 am

    Great Information. Thanks for publishing this

  2. #2 by Randy on October 3, 2012 - 3:06 pm

    My dog died after doxicyline, prednisone and blood transfusions did not save him from ehrlichiosis. Wanted to kick myself for not googling other treatments. Turns out studies show euphorbia hirta (a common weed now sold as capsules and traditionally decocted as adjunct treatment for dengue fever) has been shown to work against lyme disease, the canine form of which is ehrlichiosis.

    • #3 by janegwalker on October 3, 2012 - 4:47 pm

      Randy, thanks for your information on euphorbia hirta. We are so sorry to hear about the loss of your dog.

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