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Learn about Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis: What You Should Know About This Tick-Borne Disease

Originally posted on VetStreet

By Dr. Marty Becker DVM | August 22, 2016

Three ticks are known to spread Ehrlichia spp., the organism that causes: the brown dog tick, the American dog tick and the lone star tick.

Ticks are trouble! We all know that they spread the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but another tick-borne disease that is steadily increasing is ehrlichiosis. Once limited to western Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, the incidence of ehrlichiosis is expected to rise in those areas, as well as in southern California and the southeastern United States, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

Dogs with ehrlichiosis can develop an acute infection that starts with fever, appetite loss and lethargy. Two to four weeks after experiencing the bite of an infected tick, a subclinical infection can set in, causing thrombocytopenia. That $5 word means that the dog doesn’t have enough platelets in his blood. When that happens, he can experience bleeding into body tissues (known as petechiae) and bruising. His blood may clot more slowly than normal after an injury. Bone marrow suppression is often a result of chronic Ehrlichia spp. (the “spp.” refers to all species of this type of bacteria) infection. It can appear months to years after a tick bite. Certain breeds — in particular, German Shepherds — tend to be predisposed to severe forms of ehrlichiosis.

Cats with the disease may show similar signs. Other signs seen in cats and dogs include weight loss, joint pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

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Dr. Christie D’Andrea