Canine Ehrlichiosis Treatment
- The first stage of Ehrlichiosis is the acute phase and typically occurs a few weeks after infection. The disease is transmitted through the bite of a tick that is most commonly found in the southwestern United States. After being bitten by the tick, the organism attacks the cardiovascular system causing fever, vasculitis and anemia. These symptoms often give rise to secondary symptoms like anorexia, lethargy and increased respiration. This phase usually last around two weeks and can be so mild they aren't noticed and the dog goes into the second stage where the disease lays dormant for several years.
If the symptoms are severe enough to be noticed, antibiotics and supportive care are typically successful in treating the dog to a full recovery. To confirm a diagnosis, your vet will perform a series of tests checking for the presence of the organism. The use of the antibiotic doxycyline (for 4 to 6 weeks) is typically successful in killing the organism. In anemic dogs, hospitalization and intravenous fluids can be used to stabilize them. Severely anemic dogs might require blood transfusions or steroid therapy to correct the anemia.
- If the initial onset was not noted or treated, the organism will go dormant for several years. During this time the dog's immune system will work to eliminate the organism from the body, but if it is unsuccessful, the chronic phase will usually begin and it is often fatal.
In the chronic stage, the organism begins to attack the bone marrow which results in a suppressed immune system and low red blood cells. Supportive care should be given as symptoms occur with some dogs needing periodic hospitalization and steroid therapy. At this stage antibiotics may be used with marginal success at eliminating the organism but the damage to the body it inflicted is already done.
The condition can be avoided completely with regular application of flea and tick preventative medications like Frontline or Revolution. This will prevent the tick bite that infects the dog. After taking your dog out in a wooded area, where the potential for ticks is high, check the dog thoroughly to be sure it hasn't been bitten.