Ehrlichiosis is a disease caused by various species of bacteria belonging to the genus Ehrlichia. The pet disease is spread by infected ticks of the following species: Brown dog tick, Lone star tick, American dog tick, Spinose ear tick, Western black-legged tick, Deer tick and Castor bean tick. While studies have shown that cats can contract this infection, very little is known about feline ehrlichiosis. This pet condition is much more commonly diagnosed in dogs.
How Ehrlichiosis Affects Your Pet
Ehrlichiosis is divided into three phases: acute, sub clinical and chronic. The acute phase occurs one to three weeks after a dog is bitten by an infected tick. During this phase, bacteria replicate inside the dog’s body and attach to the animal’s white blood cells. Infection also causes the immune system to destroy platelets, blood elements necessary for proper clotting, during this time. In general, infected dogs are mildly to moderately ill during this phase. If the infected pet is not successfully treated during the acute phase, the infection becomes sub clinical for a period of months to years during which time the infective organisms hide in the spleen. Most dogs show no symptoms of infection during this phase. After a time, the infected pet will move into the chronic phase and become ill again. During this phase, a majority of infected dogs develop abnormal bleeding due to their decreased platelet counts. They also develop problems resulting from persistent inflammation including eye disease, kidney problems and neurological problems.
Common Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis
Symptoms on pets of ehrlichiosis include the following: Fever, Lethargy, Swollen lymph nodes, Decreased appetite, Bruising, Nosebleeds, Muscle pain, Enlarged spleen, Coughing, Nasal discharge, Discharge from the eyes, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Depression and Eye inflammation. Chronically infected dogs can display additional symptoms depending on the organ systems involved.
Treatments for Ehrlichiosis
The bacteria that cause ehrlichiosis live inside cells, so the pet disease can be difficult to treat. Successful treatment with antibiotics is more likely in the acute phase before organisms have sequestered themselves in the spleen. Treatment in later phases is possible, but it is more difficult, and the results are less certain. In addition to antibiotics, pets may require supportive care and additional medications depending on their symptoms. Dogs with persistent inflammation will require corticosteroids to reduce this inflammation. In cases of severe bleeding due to platelet destruction, animals may require blood or blood products.
Dogs of all breeds can contract ehrlichiosis, but there is evidence that German shepherds have a greater susceptibility to the disease than dogs of other breeds.
When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.