The Definition: Ehrlichia Canis
What is Canine Ehrlichiosis Infection in Dogs? Dogs are among the happiest critters on the planet — except when it comes to fleas and ticks. Ticks are virtually everywhere in the world, and it’s hard to imagine that such small pests can be a dog’s worst enemy.
While the brown dog tick was originally identified as a warm or tropical climate pest, it has now adapted to environments worldwide, and this is not good news for dog owners.
Ehrlichiosis Dog-to-Human/Canine Ehrlichiosis in Humans? Is it Zoonotic?
Is Canine Ehrlichiosis Contagious to Other Dogs?
This is not contagious; it cannot be transmitted between dogs, humans, or between dogs and humans. It can only be transmitted through the brown dog or Lone Star tick.
Canine Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis vs Monocytic Ehrlichiosis
Just as there are differential diagnoses in humans, there are also differential diagnoses in dogs. Canine Ehrlichiosis can be mistaken for other diseases. One way to determine if your dog has contracted Canine Ehrlichiosis is to have your vet run a “Titer test” (such as the ELISA and IFA tests) on the blood serum to detect antibodies at about a week after you know or suspect your dog has been bitten by a brown dog tick, and then another one a week or more after. This test, however, does not tell whether there is actually an infection.
Let’s look at the symptoms, treatments and prevention measures for this baffling and potentially serious illness.
What are the Canine Ehrlichiosis Infection in Dogs Clinical Signs and Symptoms?
Dogs will become infected with ehrlichia canis if bitten by a tick long enough for the tick to start feed off the dog’s blood by burying its head within the skin.
Healthy dogs may feel minor symptoms like low energy or appetite, but will be able to fight it naturally. Dogs with any condition that compromises their immune systems are susceptible to more severe symptoms and stages of the disease.
In the acute phase, generally about one to three weeks after a tick bite, your dog may feel weak, have a fever, and have swollen lymph glands as he is fighting off an infection. Other symptoms include weight loss and a weak appetite, congested breathing, diarrhea, and/or a runny or bloody nose. A visit to the vet may reveal his platelet counts are low. At this stage, it is still difficult to pinpoint Ehrlichiosis and the particular strain contracted.
In a chronic phase, a severely compromised dog will lose the ability to produce bone marrow and suffer hemorrhaging and anemia as his white cell and platelet counts drop. The disease at this stage can become fatal. Some dogs suffer ehrlichiosis dog seizure in the chronic phase of this disease, and others require treatment for inflammation of internal organs, particularly the kidneys due to a drop in proteins.
If your dog seems less active or less hungry than usual and has a fever, these may be signs your dog had a tick that went unnoticed, and he is fighting off the effects of the ehrlichiosis bacteria. Your vet will want to take some precautionary measures by running serum antibody tests and prescribing antibiotics.
There are other tests to determine the cause of a fever and lethargy, signaling an infection; however, these tests are not reliable until several weeks after your dog has been bitten by a tick. These tests include a complete blood count, a urinalysis, and a special test called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), although rare, which can isolate the DNA for Ehrlichia Canis.
What your vet is looking for is a diminishing number of platelets that allow for the blood to clot; a reduced amount of red blood cells, which causes anemia; a lower number of the white blood cells called neutrophils; and an increase in the number of lymphocytes, which indicates infection. A urinalysis will show if your dog has any stress or damage to the kidneys due to a drop in proteins.
My dog has ehrlichiosis what to do now? Is there a cure?
Treating Canine Ehrlichiosis
Canine Ehrlichiosis Doxycycline Dosage and Tetracycline Dosage
Once diagnosed, medical literature suggests that dogs be given doxycycline every 12 hours, or tetracycline every 8 hours, for four weeks during the acute and subacute phase. However, the longer your dog has been infected, the longer it may take to treat the illness with antibiotics. It is also argued that antibiotics given in the very early stages after a tick bite may not prevent the infection from spreading.
During the treatment phase, you will want to watch closely for any bleeding or worsening anemia. This indicates the platelet counts are very low and a blood transfusion may be necessary.
In healthy dogs, when antibiotics are given at the most optimal time, the Canine Ehrlichiosis prognosis is good.
Canine Ehrlichiosis Home Treatment and Natural Treatment
The only way to fight Canine Ehrlichia is with antibiotics and a rigorous tick prevention routine.
Preventing Canine Ehrlichiosis
There is a 95 -100% efficacy rate for topical “spot-on” monthly tick prevention treatments. Remember, your dog can be reinfected with Canine Ehrlichiosis, so it is important to make tick (and flea) prevention treatments an ongoing ritual.
The War on Ticks
From the U.S. to Europe and the U.K., and from Asia to Australia and South America, the tick continues to be a parasite of concern for humans and their pets. While a single tick bite may seem harmless and at most irritating, the bacterial strains it can transmit from one bite can have far-reaching health consequences for dogs.