Canine Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichia

What is ehrlichia ?

Ehlichia is an infection caused by one of three types of bacteria transmitted through a tick bite.   We can accurately test your dog in our clinic for exposure to ehrlichia .   Virginia, in fact, has one of the highest incidence rates of canine ehrlichia infection in the country.  Ehrlichiosis can also infect humans and wildlife.  You cannot become infected directly from your dog but you can be exposed and become infected through a tick bite.

What are the clinical signs of ehrlichiosis for my dog ?

Dogs that are infected with a form of ehrlichia usually present with either;  joint or muscle pain, fever and lethargy OR bleeding problems associated with abnormal bruising on their bodies, nose bleeds or other forms of hemorrhages.

My dog doesn’t seem to be acting sick.  What’s up ?

Dogs that are infected with ehrlichia may have had a previous exposure and either had subclinical signs or symptoms that resolved spontaneously without you being aware.  Some dogs can fight off the infection and make a full recovery while other dogs become severely ill.   It is difficult to know when or where your dog’s exposure occurred or if they will ever present with problems from this infection.

What do you recommend I do for my dog ?

Springfield Veterinary Center recommends that owners be aware of the symptoms that are associated with the disease.  If your dog presents with these symptoms we will initiate antibiotic therapy.

If your dog is not symptomatic we recommend performing a complete blood count (CBC) and a globulin test (antibody level ) periodically to look for changes that might be associated with an active infection in an asymptomatic dog.  If your dog’s CBC or globulin levels are abnormal then we will likely initiate treatment and further testing.

We recommend vigilant tick control to help prevent further exposures or illness in your dog.  Take appropriate measures to limit tick exposure on your dog by:

– utilizing known, safe and effective tick preventative medications

–  checking your dog for ticks after walks, especially if you have been in wooded areas or areas of tall grass.

Why not just treat my asymptomatic dog ?

This is a common and logical question.  A dog can remain seropositive even if the infection has cleared.  Treating an asymptomatic dog does not guarantee that the infection will be cleared or that your dog will not become symptomatic in the future.  There is no established therapeutic regimen that is effective in clearing the organism in asymptomatic animals.

In addition, it is normal and likely that your dog will have a positive test result for several years, even if they are treated.  Knowing this will make it impossible to know, on a yearly basis, if they have had additional tick exposure.   Furthermore, treating your asymptomatic dog with medication may cause gastro-intestinal symptoms, bacterial resistance and an unnecessary expense to you.

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