Canine Ehrlichiosis - The Other Tick-Borne Disease Every Dog Owner Needs to Know About

Canine Ehrlichiosis - The Other Tick-Borne Disease Every Dog Owner Needs to Know About

If you are a dog lover, you probably already know about Lyme Disease, the dangerous tick-borne illness that can afflict your dog and even affect the human members of your family. But there is another danger hiding in that tick bite, and this one is far less well known but no less serious. With climate change, the habitat for ticks is every expanding due to warming temperatures. That danger is Canine Ehrlichiosis, and this tick-borne illness can manifest in a number of different ways. Canine Ehrlichiosis can affect both domestic and wild dogs, and it can be transmitted by several varieties of tick, including the common brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). In North America the primary tick carrying the disease is the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) and American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis).

             The illness is passed from one animal to the next through the bite of an infected tick, making parasite control even more important for dog owners. Nearly every state in the country is home to one of the ticks capable of harboring Canine Ehrlichiosis, so prevention and parasite control is the best defense. It is also important for dog owners to be on the lookout for the warning signs of the illness, which generally start to develop within one to three weeks of the tick bite.

Symptoms and Diagnosis for Canine Ehrlichiosis

The acute phase of Canine Ehrlichiosis typically lasts between two and five weeks, and some of the most common symptoms include depression, eye discharge, pale mucous membranes, lethargy, fever, anemia and shortness of breath and sometimes neurological signs. Many infected dogs also exhibit other signs, like loss of appetite, bruising and stiffness and pain in the joints. It is important for dog owners whose animals exhibit any of these symptoms to contact their veterinarian as soon as possible and schedule a thorough examination.  

             Canine Ehrlichiosis is diagnosed based on both clinical signs and symptoms and through a special blood test designed to detect the organism that causes the disease. The blood test detects the antibodies used to fight Canine Ehrlichiosis, providing the veterinarian with a more definitive diagnosis and making treatment easier.

Long Term Effects and Treatments

Like Lyme Disease, Canine Ehrlichiosis can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics. The most commonly used antibiotics to treat the illness include tetracycline and doxycycline. Treatment generally lasts for a period of three to four weeks, but some owners may notice an improvement in symptoms in a matter of days. While more serious and advanced cases of Canine Ehrlichiosis sometimes require intensive therapy and even blood transfusions to treat anemia, the majority of cases are treatable with a simple course of antibiotics. As with any canine illness, early diagnosis is critical to preventing complications and getting the infected animal back on its paws as quickly as possible. In rare instances the disease may become chronic and does not resolve succesfully even with antibiotic treatment. As long-term protective immunity does not develop to ehrlichiosis, dogs can unfortunately also be reinfected. Lyme Disease may be more well known, but Canine Ehrlichiosis is also a serious danger. Dog owners who have not already implemented an effective tick control regimen should do so as soon a possible if they want to protect their pet from the many health risk posed by exposure to ticks. Fortunately, there are now a variety of effective natural tick repellents and even ultrasound tick repellents available which, along with manual inspection and removal every several days (especially if you have a short haired dog), can help avoid the use of toxic chemical based repellents. Spot on and chemical sprays have been implicated in adverse reactions and chronic health issues, and are also toxic to family members especially children.

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