Ehrlichiosis: What to look for

Ehrlichiosis is a disease that affects canines like dogs and wolves. This disease occurs in many parts of the world, and it is also known as Canine Typhus, Tracker Dog Disease, and Tropical Canine Pancytopenia. Canine Ehrlichiosis affected numerous military dogs during the Vietnam War.


The disease is actually a tick-borne infection that is bacterial in nature. It is generally caused by Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, and Ehrlichia canis. It does not only affect dogs, but other animal species as well. The Ehrlichia organisms are not exactly bacteria, but they belong to a group called anapl as ma, and they share certain characteristics of bacteria as well as viruses.


All Ehrlichia are transmitted by ticks, some of which include the Amblyomma americanum, brown dog ticks, and Rhipicephalus sanguineus. When these ticks are infected with Ehrlichia and they get attached to the skin of dogs, they will most likely infect the dogs. The Ehrlichia sometimes stay dormant for four to five months before they infect the ticks. Hence, a tick may not infect a dog immediately after it attaches itself to the skin. Almost every major animal hospital in the US has had cases of Canine Ehrlichiosis.


There are altogether three stages of the disease. After one to three weeks of an infected tick bite, the disease enters into the acute stage, which goes on for two or three weeks. In this stage, the Ehrlichia start to enter the white blood cells and spread throughout the body rapidly. The white blood cells are found in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, as well as the blood of the dogs. Consequently, Ehrlichia begin to destroy the platelets, which are cell fragments that help in the clotting of blood. If the dog is unable to fend off the infection at this stage, the second stage kicks in. In the second stage, or the subclinical stage, the Ehrlichia begins to live within the spleen, which will result in anaemia. The third stage is the chronic stage, where the disease is more difficult to cure.


Some of the symptoms that can help the detection of Ehrlichia are enlarged liver, spleen, and lymph nodes of the dog, as well as anaemia and fever. Other visible symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, frequent breathlessness, pain and stiffness of the joints, and appearance of bruises on the dog’s skin.


To treat ehrlichiosis, antibiotics such as doxycycline and tetracycline are used. The full course of the treatment lasts for about four weeks. After the first week, the dog may show signs of improvement. Depending on the intensity of the disease, some dogs may need intravenous fluids and blood transfusions. More often than not, if treatment is initiated during the first sage of the disease, the dog‘s recovery process is quicker. However, if the disease reaches the chronic stage, the prognosis becomes comparatively poorer. It is known that Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds have a very fatal form of chronic ehrlichiosis. Some veterinarians may prescribe imidocarb dipropionate and prednisolone during the chronic stage.


Prevention is better than cure, so protecting your dog from ticks of all kinds is the best way to prevent ehrlichiosis. Veterinarians recommend that you put tick-collars on your dog or treat your dog with permethrins occasionally.