What is Ehrlichia?
Ehrlichia is a disease that can affect dogs, humans and rarely cats. It is transmitted by the Brown dog tick and the Lone star tick, once the tick is attached for several hours the risk of infection becomes possible.
How does the disease progress?
The acute phase of the disease begins 1-3 weeks after transmission where the bacteria begin to replicate and attach to the white blood cells. The dog will appear listless, with decreased or no appetite at all, may have enlarged lymph nodes and fever with some edema in the limbs. Full recovery can be expected if treated promptly.
In the subclinical stage, the dogs appear to be normal as the organism takes up refuge in the spleen. A dog can remain in this phase for months and even years and the only indication may be a decreased platelet count which can lead to bleeding.
Not all dogs will progress to the chronic stage but if they do their prognosis is poor. An infected dog will appear ill and up to 60% can have abdominal bleeding due to low platelets. Some may have uveitis (inflammation in the eye) due to long-term immune stimulation. There can be severe weight loss, trouble breathing, joint inflammation and pain, lack of coordination, head tilt, kidney failure and paralysis. The disease can affect any breed of dog but German shepherds and Dobermans tend to be more prone in proceeding to the chronic phase.
How can I treat my pet?
Antibiotics are used to clear the organism, anti-inflammatories for the swelling of joints, sometimes fluids are given intravenously to replace losses and sometimes blood transfusions are also required.
The best thing for your pet is to try to prevent these diseases, regularly check for ticks and use the preventions recommended by your veterinarian, and keep up with annual blood testing used to check for this disease. During your spring heartworm test, the clinic also tests routinely for Ehrlichia by using a 4DX test. Ask your veterinary team about this disease and the benefits of a 4DX blood test.
Written by Laurie Box