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What are Ehrlichiosis?

In the 1970’s ehrlichiosis was first recognized as a significant and serious illness; due to the infection and death of many military dogs returning home from the Vietnam War. 

Also known as canine hemorrhagic fever, this condition can cause lethargy, breathing problems, and ocular discharge. Other names for this condition are canine typhus, tracker dog disease, canine rickettsiosis, and tropical canine pancytopenia.

Ehrlichiosis is an infectious tick-borne illness caused by Ehrlichia, a bacteria belonging to the family Ehrlichiaceae. The bacteria attacks the canine’s blood cells, progressing into a chronic infection.

Ehrlichiosis Average Cost

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Average Cost

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Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

The symptoms of ehrlichiosis can vary from mild to severe. You may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Ticks found attached to your pet
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Anemia
  • Discharge coming from the eyes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Nose bleeds
  • Loss of coordination
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Edema (retention of fluids under the skin)
  • Bleeding inside the eye
  • Blindness

Types

The acute stage occurs early in the disease, several weeks after the canine was infected.  During this stage the infected dog may have a fever, respiratory distress, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss and bone marrow suppression. This stage may last a month.

The sub-clinical stage has no outward symptoms even though the organisms are still present.  The dog’s immune system may be able to eliminate the disease during this stage.

The chronic stage is the most serious stage of the infection and can be fatal.  During this stage the canine will have a low platelet count and may experience, lameness, low blood count, nose or eye bleeding, and kidney disease.  The bacteria may also spread into the organ tissues, especially those of the spleen, liver, lung and lymph nodes.

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Causes of Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

  • The most common cause of ehrlichiosis is the bacteria Ehrlichia canis which is transmitted to the canine through the saliva of the brown tick
  • Brown ticks can be found in southwestern and Gulf Coast regions of the USA
  • The Anaplasma bacteria can also cause ehrlichiosis, transmitted by the saliva of hard shelled ixodes ticks
  • Ixodes ticks can be found in California, Midwestern and Northeastern states
  • Ehrlichia chaffeensis are transmitted by the saliva of the lone star tick 
  • Lone star ticks can be found throughout the Eastern, Southeastern and Southcentral states
  • It is also possible for dogs to become infected through a blood transfusion from a dog that has ehrlichiosis
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Diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Your veterinarian will take a thorough medical history of your pet. He will ask questions regarding the existing health concerns and when the onset of the symptoms started. Your veterinarian will then perform a physical exam. 

The veterinarian team will most likely recommend bloodwork. A complete blood count test (CBC) usually will show a decreased number of platelets and low red and white cells in pets infected with ehrlichia.  An ELISA test will check your pet’s serum (blood that has been allowed to clot then spun down in a centrifuge) to detect antibodies to ehrlichia bacteria. Another diagnostic test that may be recommended is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.  This test helps identify specific genes unique to ehrlichiosis.

To help your pet with his current symptoms your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics before all of the results of the blood test return. The sooner the treatment for tick-borne disease starts, the better.

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Treatment of Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Dogs that have severe anemia or are experiencing bleeding problems may need to be kept overnight for observation and possibly require a blood transfusion. If your dog is dehydrated, he may need to be given intravenous fluids that contain electrolytes. 

Antibiotics such as doxycycline, tetracycline, minocycline, or oxytetracycline are all very effective treatment against ehrlichiosis.  Treatment may last up to six weeks to ensure a full recovery. If your pet’s bone marrow was compromised he may be prescribed androgen steroids to help stimulate bone marrow production.

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Recovery of Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Follow-up visits will be needed to re-run bloodwork and check on your pet’s progress. Prognosis for canines with acute ehrlichiosis is very good if the treatment plan is followed. Dogs with subclinical ehrlichiosis may remain in this phase with no symptoms for their life time. In the case of chronic ehrlichiosis, it may take longer for your pet to fully recover.

To prevent ehrlichiosis from recurring, your veterinarian can suggest tick preventatives for your dog such as dips, sprays or monthly topical. It should be noted that humans can also become infected with this disease as the result of a tick bite.

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Ehrlichiosis Average Cost

From 588 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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Ehrlichiosis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Coby

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Rottweiler

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

My Rottweiler husky mix was diagnosed with Ehrlichiosis 3 months ago, we went through the antibiotic treatment, and he seemed better. But now he doesn't seem to have an appetite,and he has diahrhea. Could it be that it is reoccurring? Can I start treatment again with doxycycline?

July 14, 2018

Coby's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It is possible that Coby's signs are related to a recurrence of Ehrlichia, but those signs can be related to many problems, and it would be best to have him seen by your veterinarian before randomly starting medications, especially since that medication can be upsetting to the stomach and GI tract, and may make the situation worse.

July 14, 2018

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Dottie

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Australian Shepherd or Mini or Toy Australian Shepherd

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

Hi, I want to adopt a dog that was positive for Ehrlichia Canis/ewingii. The dog is not showing symptoms except for low appetite but I’m not sure if that’s because she just got to a foster home a day ago. She seems happy and active. She is on an antibiotic though. Not sure but it’s prob doxy. Is it possible for her to never show symptoms ever? Would you get her? I had a very sick cat in the past and really don’t want to go through that kind of stress again. Is this common enough that dogs live normal long lives after being positive?

July 9, 2018

Dottie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Some treated dogs do remain asymptomatic carriers and the likelihood of another flare up is low, however you need to remember that the dog will remain a carrier; most likely doxycycline was prescribed which is the treatment of choice. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 10, 2018

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Choco

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

I rescue a dog 1 month ago. All healthy on his records except a little obese. So today is his first visit with Vet for wellness and vaccination . It came up he is positive for ECEE and given antibiotics. He does not have any symptoms and also was treated in April by resue center with Doxycylcline . Why he needs to repeat the antibiotocs again if he does not have any symptoms?

June 27, 2018

Choco's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There is some debate and controversy in the veterinary world regarding the treatment of symptomatic carriers, some Veterinarians will treat whilst the others will not; so any treatment is left to the discretion of the Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 28, 2018

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Doogie

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

Four Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Ehrlichiosis
No Known Symptoms

Hi, my three year old chocolate lab was diagnosed with Ehrlichiosis a year ago when we took him for his regular check up. He had been on Nexguard at the time and still is. The vet prescribed Doxycycline. He never showed any signs of being sick or that we noticed. I'm reading all these posts of dogs getting sick. Is it possible a dog would not show signs? We just took him for his yearly check up again and the Ehrlichiosis showed up. Any suggestions on how we can beat this for good? Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/condition/ehrlichiosis

May 23, 2018

Doogie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Some dogs are Antibody positive for Ehrlichia long term, without actually having any clinical signs. We tend to treat these dogs if they are clinically ill, and monitor if they are not ill. It may not be possible to clear the infection permanently.

May 23, 2018

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Alpha

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Siberian Husky

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Lethargy
Weakness
Limping
Low Appetite

Hi! My dog has been diagnosed with ehrlichiosis last January. After 6 weeks of treatment, his condition came back to normal, or so I thought. Last Saturday I had him checked because he hasn't been eating normally for the past few days and it was confirmed that he still is infected with ehrlichiosis. This time, however, it seems that he is not responding to the medications that was prescribed to him. He's still not eating normally, really weak, and just know I noticed that his hind legs are limping. I just need an expert advice on what to do. He's in pain and suffering and I can't seem to do anything as the medications doesn't seem to work this time. Thank you in advance!

May 17, 2018

Alpha's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Doxycycline is the treatment of choice in these cases, however there are some other antibiotics which may be used to treat Ehrlichiosis (see link below) but are generally considered as not as effective. Without examining Alpha I cannot prescribe any different antibiotic (legally) but would encourage you to discuss options with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/rickettsial-diseases/ehrlichiosis-and-related-infections

May 18, 2018

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Mikoy

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Labrador

dog-age-icon

4 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Bloody Urine

My puppy is about 4-5 months old and unfortunately he’s been diagnosed with erhliciosis. He’s been showing most of the symptoms and everyday it seems like nothing has improved even after taking some medications like doxycycline and taking iv fluids everyday. He’s weight also keeps going down and that’s my top concern. The vet already gave him some gel-like supplementary food just to make him eat something but I think it isn't enough. What possible food should I let him take that’s safe for him? I just feel very worried all the time seeing that he doesn’t have any stamina.

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Boss

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Polydipsia
Yellow Stool

Approximately a year ago Boss was diagnosed with Ehrlichiosis and placed on doxycycline, prednisone, and an anti inflammatory for a month. Within 24 he went from fatigued and depressed to his enthusiastic self. About 6 days ago he began acting lethargic and refusing to eat. After about 4 days of decreased appetite, vomiting and yellow stools we took him to the vet. The vet ran blood work and confirmed that he once again had Ehrlichiosis and that his RBC count was down to 27k and at 20k he would require a transfusion. I’m assuming that he is in the chronic stage rather than the acute stage? He’s been on the medication for 24 hours at this point and is not improving as rapidly as he did previously. We return in 48 hours to the vet to run blood work again to evaluate whether his counts have dropped more. If his counts dropped more and we continued with hospitalization, what is the likelihood that he will survive? **Added note I have been giving him Pedialyte (1L/day he is also regularly drinking water) to help balance out his electrolytes and he has been eating several time a day but I’m small amounts. His eating habits have varied from eating ground beef and rice, boiled chicken, peanut butter, and dog biscuits.

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Fibi

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German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fever
Lethargy
Vomiting
Poor Apetite

Hello , My Dog got infected with Ehrlichia our first vet put her on tetracycline for 3 weeks , after we stopped the antibiotic by 2 weeks her symptoms returned she started to have fever and throwing up again, so we decided to change the vet our new vet made a complete blood work for her which returned mostly as normal Minus EOS which was low (0.03)K/uL, so he put her on dexocycline for 6 weeks . the question is , since her first treatment failed , what are the chance for her to recover on dexocycline , the sad part he didn't mentioned which stage her ehrlichia infection is at , but since her Blood test is not that bad i assume she didn't reach chronic phase yet , i would love if some vet clarify to me about her recovery chance and her infection stage. thank you.

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Buddy

dog-breed-icon

Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Slightly Low Mchc

Buddy tested positive for Ehrilichia during routine Heart worm test 1 week ago. I found 2 ticks on him April 2018, but none since. My normal vet does not check for tick diseases during routine HW tests so he has never been checked. We were seeing a new (Holistic) vet, whose test did screen for tick diseases. He is asymptomatic, so we did a CBC test. All was normal except his MCHC which was only slightly low 32.1 (normal 32.6-39.2 g/dL). I'm a little hesitant to put him on a 28 day course of antibiotics if not necessary, especially since he has a sensitive tummy. But I also don't want this to turn into a chronic, life threatening illness. Do some dogs fight off the infection without antibiotic? He is raw fed and in great health (other than some arthritis from elbow dysplasia). Should I be concerned about the low MCHC?

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Cooper

dog-breed-icon

terrier

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Hair Loss
Itching
Obsessive Licking

My 8 Yr old wirey hair terrier just had blood work done and cam back positive for Ehrlichiosis and a high white blood cell count. The Vet said it was probably Leukimia or Lymphoma. Is it possible the Ehrichiosis has anything to do with that and it is not either of Leukimia​ or Lymphoma​.

Ehrlichiosis Average Cost

From 588 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,000