Canine Anaplasmosis

What is Anaplasma ?

Anaplasmosis is an infection in dogs caused by one or both of the following bacterial agents, Anaplasma phagocytophilum or Anaplasma platys.  Both types of anaplasmosis are spread by ticks and can occur worldwide.  The highest distribution of disease for dogs in the United States is in the upper Midwest, East and Northeast.  Anaplasmosis 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 anaplasmosis for my dog ?

There are two clinical syndromes associated with the disease depending on which bacteria is involved.  Anplasma phagocytophilum is more common and symptoms consist of fever, joint pain and lameness.  These symptoms are similar to those of Lyme disease and can be caused by the same ticks.

Anaplasma platys infection is associated with bruising and bleeding problems which can be severe and cyclical.

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

Dogs that are infected with anaplasmosis may have had a previous exposure and either had subclinical signs or symptoms that resolved spontaneously.  Those dogs may test positive but never show any clinical problems.  Other dogs present with severe symptoms secondary to their anaplasmosis infection.  It is difficult to know when or where your dog’s exposure occurred or if they will ever present with problems from the disease.

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) periodically to look for changes that might be associated with an active infection in an asymptomatic dog.  If your dog’s CBC test is 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.