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The Treatment of Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

External parasites like ticks cause physical discomfort and may transmit serious diseases like ehrlichiosis to your pup. Here, our Snellville vets discuss the symptoms or ehrlichiosis in dogs and the treatment options for this medical condition.

What is ehrlichiosis in dogs?

Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease spread through the bite of an infected tick. The two most common types of bacteria that cause ehrlichiosis in dogs in the United States are E. canis and E. ewingii. The Ehrlichia bacteria live in the white blood cells of the animals they infect.

Can ehrlichiosis in dogs be cured?

Several weeks of treatment are often needed to help a dog fully recover from ehrlichiosis. If ehrlichiosis in dogs is caught early, the prognosis is generally pretty good. If symptoms were detected once the disease reached its acute or mild chronic phase, they should typically improve within 24 to 48 hours. You should remember that dogs can become reinfected with ehrlichiosis later on.

How is ehrlichiosis treated?

Ehrlichiosis in dogs may require complex treatment in certain cases. If blood loss is experienced, a transfusion may be needed to maintain your pup's health.

Ehrlichia may also be infected with other diseases ticks can carry, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesia or Lyme disease. Bartonella bacteria can also be found with ehrlichiosis and other tick-borne diseases. If your dog has any of these other diseases, diagnosis may be complicated and treating ehrlichiosis in dogs may require advanced techniques.

Antibiotics such as doxycycline are usually easily accessible and well-tolerated. Your dog may need to take these for about four weeks. Depending on your pup’s clinical state and blood parameters, steroids and other medications may be required for treatment. Addressing ehrlichiosis in dogs may also include natural treatments to supplement traditional therapies and treatments.

Does ehrlichiosis ever go away?

While some dogs have been shown to recover from ehrlichiosis spontaneously, this is not common, and all infected dogs should receive treatment immediately.

Treatment for ehrlichiosis can include antibiotics and intravenous fluids, if necessary. This treatment is usually sufficient if the disease is diagnosed in the early stages.

Dogs experiencing chronic ehrlichiosis are more challenging to treat. Your vet may prescribe steroids, and your dog might need multiple blood transfusions.

Often, the treatment can work to revive the symptoms affecting your dog, but the disease may still return as a chronic condition later on.

What are the symptoms of ehrlichiosis in dogs?

Each stage of an ehrlichiosis infection has its own set of common symptoms. They are:

Acute Ehrlichiosis

The symptoms of ehrlichiosis in dogs during the acute phase include but are not limited to:

  • Fever
  • Sores in the mucous membranes
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels
  • Bleeding disorders (nose bleeds, for example)

Subclinical Ehrlichiosis

During this phase, your dog will be infected but show no signs. The bacteria will remain dormant in your dog's spleen.

While there are no clinical signs during this stage, your dog may have some changes in bloodwork (a slightly low platelet count and possibly elevated blood protein called globulin).

Chronic Ehrlichiosis

Some of the symptoms that appear during the chronic phase include:

  • Pale gums (caused by anemia)
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Breathing problems
  • Coughing
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels
  • Increased urination and increased drinking (resulting from kidney problems)
  • Eye problems
  • Lameness
  • Neurological problems, including confusion, disorientation, and behavior changes

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Is your dog showing signs of an ehrlichiosis infection? Contact our Snellville vets to schedule an examination and diagnostics today.

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