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Tick-Transmitted Diseases: Ehrlichiosis

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
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Most dog owners have heard of Lyme disease. More and more dog owners are becoming aware of ehrlichiosis, another tick-transmitted disease in dogs, and another reason tick control products are so important.

Ehrlichiosis, found throughout the US, is caused by a number of different species of the organism Ehrlichia. Some species infect white blood cells, while others affect platelets – cells that help blood to clot.

Ehrlichiosis has 3 phases:

The acute phase starts 1-3 weeks after a tick bite and lasts 2-4 weeks. Common symptoms include fever, decreased appetite, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, and lethargy. Less-common symptoms include nose bleeds, bruising, and joint problems.

The subsequent subclinical phase often has few clinical signs, aside from low levels of platelets and white blood cells.

The chronic phase, which occurs if the dog cannot fight the infection, may include bleeding problems, nervous system signs, difficulty breathing, weakness, weight loss, and even death.

To help diagnose Ehrlichiosis, a veterinarian will perform a blood test, specifically testing for antibodies – special proteins produced by the dog’s body to try to kill the Ehrlichia.

Ehrlichiosis is treated with doxycycline, the same antibiotic used to treat Lyme disease. It must be given for many weeks – even months. Severe cases may require steroids and blood transfusions.

No vaccine protects against Ehrlichiosis; therefore, tick control is vital. Protect your dog from Ehrlichia by limiting his exposure to ticks, while simultaneously (and consistently) using tick control products such as K9 Advantix® II, or Preventic Collars.

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