What It Is
Ehrlichiosis, often called tick fever or tropical canine pancytopenia, is a tick-transmitted disease affecting dogs. The brown dog tick carries the organism causing Ehrlichiosis and transmits the disease while feeding on the dog’s blood.
The disease has two phases, acute and chronic. The acute phase occurs 1-3 weeks following tick exposure. Clinical signs of illness are non-specific and may include listlessness, swollen lymph nodes, anorexia, fever, nervous signs and discharges from the nose and eyes. The signs of the chronic phase may include those mentioned for the acute phase plus nosebleeds or other abnormal bleeding, weight loss and eye problems. The chronic phase may occur several months following the acute phase.
In both phases, the damage done to the body relates to destruction and decreased production of all blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets). This leads to anemia, decreased resistance to disease, infection and abnormal bleeding. German Shepherds seem especially susceptible to the disease.
Although clinical signs and history of prior tick infestation are helpful, accurate diagnosis depends upon blood testing. Due to the very small size of certain life stages of the tick, frequently owners are unaware their pet has even had a tick bite.
The acute phase of the disease usually responds to treatment within a short period of time. The chronic phase is difficult to treat and may require several months of therapy. Treatment for both phases usually involves specific antibiotics, but may include other supportive care. Unfortunately, the chronic form of the disease can be fatal.
The best prevention of the disease is to keep your dog free of ticks. This should include checking the skin daily for ticks, treating the dog with tick products and having your home and yard sprayed for ticks. Remember, tick size can range from the size of a period at the end of this sentence to over ½ centimeter. The very small ticks are difficult to detect.
About The Brown Dog Tick
1) It is the most widely distributed of all ticks in the United States.
2) The preferred host is the dog and it seldom attacks man or other animals.
3) It feeds on the blood of dogs.
4) It infests any place dogs live including dog kennels, runs, backyards, and will readily infest the home. Usual hiding places in the home include baseboards, window casings, furniture, curtains and carpet.
5) The tick life cycle has three stages, with each stage requiring a blood meal before maturing to the next stage. All three stages can transmit the disease. The complete life cycle may be as short as two months, or as long as two years.
6) Controlling the brown dog tick requires treatment of infested premises by the homeowner or a pest control operator, as well as treatment of the dog. Your veterinarian can advise you as to proper treatment methods for your dog.
Information supplied by the Arizona VMA.