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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.
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.