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Erlichiosis

EHRLICHIOSIS        

A serious blood disease that, when it is recognized in time, can usually be successfully treated. This disease is spread by ticks; adequate precautions are important.  Contamination of  Ehrlichiosis, like Babesiosis, is spread through ticks and  these two diseases regularly occur in combination.

Ehrlichia canis is a bacterial organism that infects the white blood cells. Humans can also be contaminated.

 

Symptoms:

Ehrlichiosis is an insidious disease. During the war in Vietnam, the American army had almost 300 working dog casualties before they knew that Ehrlichia was causing the disease.

The first symptoms follow 8 to 20 days after contamination:

° Fever,

° Lethargy

° Shivers

° Loss of appetite,

° Anemia.

Less frequent symptoms are:

° Swollen lymph glands

° Painful muscles and joints

° Nose bleeding

° Bloodstained urine

° Back and neck pain

° Eye infections

° Chills

° Respiratory problems

° Heart problems

They closely resemble the symptoms of Babesiosis, but are less violent. The disease can be accompanied by other phenomena: swollen lymph glands, painful muscles and joints, bloodstained urine, nose bleedings and bleedings elsewhere, serious back or neck pain and eye problems (running eyes, infections). Also neurological deviations occur such as epileptic attacks or difficulties in walking, as well as respiratory or heart problems. Ehrlichiosis has, when the dog is not treated, often a deadly result or a chronic course. Also after a treatment, the disease remains sometimes chronic. A certain balance arises then between the cause of the disease and the immune system of the dog. The dog is not really ill, but is also not really well, either. The disease can recur again when the dog is for one or other reason under stress or goes through a period of lower resistance, for instance because he is having other diseases (with name Babesiosis) or through the use of medication (Prednisone for instance is very harmful). 

Diagnosis and treatment:

Ehrlichiosis must be detected by blood tests. Increased activity of the liver, a low number of white blood cells and a low number of blood platelets are indications. Sometimes the parasite itself can be discovered, although it is more difficult than in case of  Babesiosis. When antibodies are present, the dog has been in contact with the disease cause. If he furthermore shows a number of the mentioned symptoms, you can be reasonably certain that he suffers from Ehrlichiosis. Ehrlichiosis is indeed serious, but can be treated well with antibiotics if detected in an early stage.  Doxycycline is the best medication to be given during minimum 3 weeks but sometimes also during several months.

In most cases the dog must be taken to an animal clinic and sometimes blood transfusions and intra-venous feeding are necessary. Most dogs recover well when the disease is recognized in an early stage and is treated aggressively. For young and pregnant animals, however, the use of antibiotics can be harmful.  Chronic disease can be quite difficult to cure.

Prevention:

There still exists no vaccination against Ehrlichiosis, but the disease can also affect horses and cows and are therefore more important to the economy than dogs. Consequently, much money for research is available. Meanwhile, the only vaccination that offers a little bit protection against Ehrlichia is the nose spray against kennel cough, because it stimulates the formation of the antidote immunoglobulin A. The safest course of action is to avoid the risk area (certainly in the warmer seasons) and take sufficient precautions against tick bites.  Spreading and period of risk for Ehrlichiosis is common in a large part of the world, but mostly in warmer areas. In colder regions, like Belgium and the Netherlands, the disease is very rare. The risk for contamination is also smaller in the mountains. Unfortunately it is not known how high you must climb to exclude every risk. The risk of infection varies with the season in which the ticks are most active. In temperate regions, their activity is mainly between May and October, in southern regions it lasts longer. 

The most important protection for the dog against Ehrlichia is an adequate prevention against ticks.

Use of the Scalibor tick collar or Prac-Tic pipettes

Check on ticks after a walk

Immediate removal of the ticks with special tick tweezers

Spreading in Europe:

probably in all countries around the Mediterranean Sea and in Portugal; 

North America, USA:

In most states. In the south-east and in the central south the risk exists during the entire year, in the Midwest from late spring till autumn. The North is till now Ehrlichia-free but in Wisconsin and Minnesota a new variant has appeared lately;   Canada: no data; 

South-America:

No data, probably in all (sub) tropical areas;  

Asia:

In all (sub) tropical areas;

Africa:

No data, probably in all (sub) tropical areas; 

Australia/ New-Zealand:

No data available.