Tick-borne Disease Epidemic
Ehrlichea is a bacteria that causes a tick-borne disease, ehrlichiosis, attacking dogs; it is in epidemic proportions this year here in Costa Rica. Ehrlichiosis is fatal if not caught early and since the symptoms vary in dogs it makes it all the more difficult to diagnose. It particularly affects German shepherd mixes and purebreds more than other breeds but all dogs are in danger. There are 3 stages of eEhrlichiosis:
- Acute Stage – the initial effects take place 1 -3 weeks after an infected tick bite but there are no actual symptoms at this stage.
- Clinical Stage – as we mentioned they vary between dogs but usually they include one or more of the following symptoms – vision difficulties, sluggishness, depression, weight loss, fever, edema (swelling) of the legs or scrotum, eye pain, hemorrhaging from the eyes or nose.
- Chronic Stage – respiratory failure, gastrointestinal upset, ophthalmic disease, major distress signs from the dog.
Erhlichiosis Detection: Changes in Pet Behavior
DIAGNOSIS: early detection is the key. If you can catch the disease in the first two stages then the outcome is generally good. A serum test can be done to determine antibodies for ehrlichea but in the early stages this can come up negative so it may be necessary to repeat the test.
Tick prevention is the safest bet, however, if you live around cows and horses or any type of pasture it may be more difficult to prevent. Using anti-tick collars or topical applications is a good preventative. Also, combing for ticks regularly with a tick comb and washing with medicated soaps are highly recommended.
The drugs Tetracycline and Doxycycline can be prescribed for your dog and in more serious cases a blood transfusion will be required. Keep a close eye out for the initial general malaise symptoms in your dog!
Many dogs have survived erhlichiosis tick disease because the owners paid attention to changes in their pets behavior as stated above. Visit your vet or the AHPPA vet clinic if you suspect your pet has symptoms or is acting unusual. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances to beat this tick-borne disease.