Ehrlichia in Dogs Symptoms and Treatment

Ticks are not only a nuisance for your dog, causing painful bites, but can also be a very serious problem. Their bites can transmit canine ehrlichiosis, or ehrlichia, a potentially dangerous disease.

It is important to be aware of this and to make sure that your pet is properly dewormed to prevent it. Let's discuss this further.

ehrlichiosis in dogs

What is ehrlichia in dogs?

Ehrlichiosis, also known as ehrlichia, is a disease in dogs caused by a microorganism called rickettsia. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick; the tick saliva carries the disease into the dog's bloodstream.

The primary vector for this disease is the Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus).

How does Ehrlichia affect dogs?

Once Ehrlichia enters the cells of an infected dog, it reproduces, resulting in two possible scenarios:

  • Monocytic ehrlichiosis, in which monocytes and lymphocytes are affected.
  • Granulocytic ehrlichiosis, which infects neutrophils and eosinophils.

The disease spreads to the various organs, causing inflammation of these organs.

In addition, it should be noted that this pathology develops in three phases:

  • Acute phase. It lasts about 3-4 weeks and symptoms usually go unnoticed. The dog may have intermittent fever, tremors, some bleeding and apathy, but often owners do not notice anything.
  • Subclinical phase. This phase is very variable depending on the case, as it can last weeks, months and sometimes years. The dog's condition is apparently normal.
  • Chronic phase. It is characterized by most of the symptoms such as weight loss, eye problems, abdominal pain, kidney problems, weakness, anorexia, muscular and respiratory problems, as well as hemorrhages that are visible in the stool, urine or nose.

Can ehrlichia in dogs be prevented?

The most important prevention is the correct deworming of your pet at all times. For this there are different methods, such as deworming collars, pills, tablets and pipettes.

Some consider the disease to be more common in summer, but as with canine leishmaniasis, the disease can occur almost any time of the year.

In addition, there is no breed of dog that is more prone to suffer from the disease than another, as the tick can infect anyone equally. Therefore, it is important to keep your pet under control in this regard.

In addition, if infected areas are known, it is crucial to avoid them. In case these areas are living areas, fumigation should be carried out.

Symptoms of ehrlichiosis in dogs

Although some of the symptoms have already been mentioned when talking about the stages of the pathology, let's see which are the most common ones:

  • Anorexia in dogs.
  • Fever.
  • Weight loss.
  • Pale mucous membranes.
  • Uveitis.
  • Apathy.
  • Nasal discharge and cough, when pneumonia occurs.
  • Lymphadenopathy.
  • Hemorrhage in the nervous system or meningitis due to inflammation.
  • Hemorrhagic (hematuria, petechiae, ecchymosis).
  • Renal insufficiency.
  • Intermittent lameness, caused by polyarthritis that appears due to the deposit of immunocomplexes at a joint level.

Diagnosis of ehrlichiosis in dogs

Early diagnosis of canine ehrlichiosis or erlichia in dogs is essential to control the effects of the disease as soon as possible.

Hematology is essential in both veterinary guidance and the evaluation of the efficacy of treatments administered in this respect.

On the one hand, direct observation of the causative agent in the cytoplasm of monocytes or lymphocytes in a blood smear is necessary. This is possible when the disease is in its second stage, but after the second stage, many dogs affected with ehrlichiosis no longer have these inclusion bodies. Therefore, it is necessary to look for other features.

When a dog has this disease in its chronic phase, it will suffer, among other problems, a non-regenerative anemia with thrombocytopenia.

This is a very typical feature of Ehrlichia and will serve as a guideline to make a decision before performing confirmatory tests for the disease. One such test is the ELISA test: SNAP 4DX.

Although there are other types of tests, this is a rapid diagnostic test and facilitates the establishment of early treatment for the pathology.

Ehrlichiosis in dogs treatment

It is essential that you go with your pet to regular veterinary check-ups that can help detect this or any other disease. Especially if you have observed some of the symptoms that could indicate that this is the case.

In the case of erlichiosis in dogs, there are certain antibiotics that are very effective in combating it, especially if administered in the early stages of the disease.

These antibiotics should be administered for at least 4 - 8 weeks.

It is usual to start observing responses to treatment after 2 or 3 days, especially in terms of the animal's behavior and attitude.

Sometimes this medication is sufficient, but in cases of severe anemia or bleeding problems, a blood transfusion may be necessary at the beginning of treatment. In addition, if the animal is dehydrated, fluid therapy should also be used.

On the other hand, the use of corticosteroids is essential during the earliest stage of the disease, around 2-7 days, in immunosuppressive doses.

Once the treatment has been established, a control issue will have to be carried out.

It is important to keep in mind that dogs infected with canine ehrlichiosis that are not treated can become asymptomatic carriers of this disease, in addition to eventually dying from massive hemorrhage.

Prognosis of erlichiosis in dogs

The prognosis is favorable for dogs if the disease is detected and treated in its early stages. However, when the disease has reached a chronic stage, the prognosis is guarded.

This is because if bone marrow suppression and low blood cell levels occur, the dog may not respond well to treatment, leading to death from secondary bacterial infections or uncontrollable bleeding.

It is also important to note that the disease can recur, not only due to an infected tick, but also due to periods of stress in which the animal's defenses are weaker.

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