Preventing Canine Ehrlichiosis: What You Need to Know

Taking proactive measures to prevent ticks does more than just ease your mind when you find one on your pet. It also helps protect your dog and your family from contracting tick-borne diseases like ehrlichiosis. In addition to Lyme disease, ticks can spread conditions like ehrlichiosis, which can be dangerous for dogs. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to recognize and prevent ehrlichiosis in dogs.

Understanding Canine Ehrlichiosis and Its Transmission

Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease transmitted by ticks that live in white blood cells throughout the body. Certain bacteria, like Ehrlichia canis, can cause ehrlichiosis when ticks are infected. Dogs in North America are primarily exposed to Ehrlichia canis through brown dog ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and to Ehrlichia ewingii through Lone Star ticks (Amblyomma americanum). These ticks are found in various regions of the United States.

According to Dr. Edward B. Breitschwerdt, a professor at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, ehrlichiosis is widespread in the U.S., with dogs at risk of being infected with different Ehrlichia species transmitted by various tick species.

Ticks can transmit the disease within a few hours of attaching to a dog, so prompt removal of ticks is crucial.

Recognizing Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis

When caused by Ehrlichia canis bacteria, ehrlichiosis has three phases: acute, subclinical, and chronic. The acute phase, lasting one to three weeks, presents with symptoms like lethargy, lack of appetite, and fever. Diagnosis can be challenging during this phase as specific symptoms may not be evident at first.

In more severe cases, symptoms like petechiae may be present. Dogs may transition to the subclinical phase, remaining asymptomatic but still carrying the infection.

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Some dogs may progress to the chronic phase, which can lead to severe symptoms like uveitis, bleeding, and organ injuries.

Diagnosing and Treating Ehrlichiosis

Veterinarians in tick-prone areas are vigilant for ehrlichiosis. Blood tests can confirm the presence of antibodies, and treatment with antibiotics like doxycycline is effective in most cases.

Treating and Preventing Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Antibiotics are the primary treatment for ehrlichiosis, with most dogs recovering fully with proper medication. Regular tick prevention measures can reduce the risk of ehrlichiosis.

Preventing Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Regular tick checks and preventive measures are essential to protect dogs from ehrlichiosis. Tick-borne diseases can be costly to treat and may lead to severe complications if left untreated.

German Shorthaired Pointer retrieving a stick in a field.
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Regular tick prevention and prompt tick removal can help prevent ehrlichiosis. By protecting your dog, you’re also safeguarding your family from tick-borne illnesses.

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Preventing Canine Ehrlichiosis: What You Need to Know