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Ehrlichiosis: Tick-Borne Illnesses Are On The Rise In Dogs

According to IDEXX Laboratories, there were four times as many exposures to Ehrlichia in 2012 as there were in 2011 in the south-central and eastern regions of the United States.

One of several tick-borne diseases, the rise of Ehrlichia exposure appears to indicate that there is a rise in tick-borne illnesses overall and confirms that pet owners need to be diligent year-round with tick protection. The disease that results in exposure to Ehrlichia is called Ehrlichiosis.

What is Ehrlichiosis?

Ehrlichiosis is a tick-borne rickettsial infectious blood disease that typically comes from the brown dog tick. It can also come from deer ticks, blood transfusions and contaminated needles or other instruments. Humans can also suffer from Ehrlichiosis, but they are generally impacted by a different strain of exposure.

Ehrlichiosis in dogs

There are three stages of Ehrlichiosis in dogs:

  1. Acute stage – because of bone marrow suppression, fever and lowered blood cell counts generally take place. The acute stage occurs several weeks after infection and lasts for up to a month.
  2. Subclinical stage – this has no outward symptoms and can actually last the remainder of your dog’s life. The dog remains infected by Ehrlichia but can sometimes eliminate it from his or her system.
  3. Chronic stage – this is the most serious stage of infection, but it does not impact all dogs with Ehrlichiosis. This stage is marked by very low blood cell counts, bleeding, infections of bacterial nature, and even kidney disease can result.

It should be noted that dogs don’t pass Ehrlichiosis on to humans, but the ticks can and do pass on the organism.

For this reason, it’s important to steer clear of dogs that may have ticks on them as the ticks can move on to human bodies and create some serious trouble.

How is Ehrlichiosis diagnosed?

Veterinarians generally rely on three tests to detect Ehrlichiosis infections:

  1. Indirect Fluorescent Antibody Assay test – this tests the dogs blood to determine what is known as a “titer level,” otherwise considered the level of concentration of disease antibodies in the dog’s fluid.
  2. Giesma Smear – this locates the actual organism in the blood, as opposed to the IFA test which deals in ratios. This is a basic film smear that investigates just how bacteria stick to the dog’s “normal” cells.
  3. Polymerase Chain Reaction – this tests the presence of DNA from Ehrlichia in the dog’s blood, but it tends to be among the rarer exams for Ehrlichiosis. Most veterinarians and lab technicians use the IFA test.

How is Ehrlichiosis treated?

As is almost always the case, there are many different approaches you can take to treating this condition. It depends in large part on the variety of Ehrlichiosis your dog has, with the aforementioned stages factoring in to the approach most likely to help your older dog through the disease.

As far as treatment goes, it’s important to remember that each dog is different. Some pet owners tend to disdain antibiotics unless absolutely necessary and they have their own reasons for this, while others use a more conventional approach.

As most of my readers know, I prefer a more holistic, organic approach to dog care – especially when dealing with our older, more sensitive canines. Depending on the stage your dog finds him or herself in, treatment involving antibiotics may be the only course of action going forward. For this reason, we sincerely recommend practicing prevention.

The above banner that you see is of the actual flea and tick product that I use for my own dogs and have been for many years. We live near woods and walk in the woods and have never had a problem.

As the cliché goes, an ounce of prevention really is worth an ounce of cure. Check for ticks daily and use a magnifying glass if you have to.

The little buggers can be hard to spot; they like to camp out between the toes, in the ear flaps and even around the base of your dog’s tail.

When you spot them, remove them with gloves or a tick remover. Whatever you do, DO NOT use your bare hands.

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