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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.

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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

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Average Cost

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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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Kici

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Shih Tzu

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralyzed

Hai. My shih tzu tested positive for ehrlichia and he's in the chronic stage. My dog is now paralyzed for 2 weeks, anemia and he can't bark sometimes. The vet gave him doxy but I found no changes with him. Thanks to God he's still eating and poop normally. But May I know if my dog can be cured and walk like before? I just miss him jumping and kissing everyone in the house.

April 30, 2018

Kici's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Doxycycline is considered the treatment of choice for dogs with Ehrlichiosis and treatment may be for four to six weeks, but response to treatment depends on overall severity and Kici’s general state of health. I cannot give you any assurance without examining Kici that he will recover or not, but response to treatment is normally good. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/rickettsial-diseases/ehrlichiosis-and-related-infections

April 30, 2018

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Fritz

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Dachshund

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Ticks
Fever
Head Tilt
Breathing Difficulty
Difficulty Walking
Loss Of Balance
Loss Of Appetite
Dehydrated

Hi, my dog was disgnosed with erlichia 3 weeks ago. He only started treatment for erlichia 4 days ago and rather than seeing any improvement I see he gets worse. He is having hard times walking, doesnt want to eat, he is getting constant ticks in his head, today he threw up 3 times and has cero coordination. The vet has said it takes at leats a minimum of 10 days to see any improve,ent. I am afraid he is not getting any better. He is shaking and has a hard time walking. No bloodfrom his nose, or in his peenor stool and his blood tests come out normal. Are all these symptoms normal and how long does it take for the medicine to have some effect and we can see improvement. It is breaking my heart to see his like this.

March 29, 2018

Fritz's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Those signs aren't really consistent with Ehrlichia, necessarily. It would be a good idea to have a recheck for her as soon as possible if she is worsening, and not eating, and vomiting to see if there is something else going on with her, unrelated to the Ehrlichia. I hope that he is okay.

March 29, 2018

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Kyser

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German Shepherd

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Loss Of Appetite

My German Shepherd was diagnosed with Ehrlichia a year ago. We went thru the normal treatment and he finally was back to about 95% after 9 months. But now, I'm noticing joint swelling in his back legs, loss of appetite, and he had vomiting 2 days ago. Can Ehrlichia come back after a full course of treatment?

Feb. 25, 2018

Kyser's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. If Kyser has been re-exposed to a tick borne disease, it can recur, yes. If he is clinically showing signs of Ehrlichiosis, and his test is again positive, it would be best to start treatment for him again. Your veterinarian can guide you as to whether this is the appropriate therapy for him, as I cannot examine or diagnose anything over an email. I hope that everything goes well for him.

Feb. 25, 2018

May I ask something.?? I took to VET a stray dog explaining that i have it since yesterday, It does not eat at all, it is not moving at all, sleeping all the time. I asked to keep it, to do the blood test, to see his leg ( which had a problem also and to spay it. He started operation BEFORE to get the results from the blood test.THEN the results came and the dog has erlichia. And now the bleeding from the operation can not be stopped. He is trying to persuade me that in any case the dog would be dying . I believe after reading a lot that he SHOULD START treatment for erlichia and after one month make ANY OPERATION. PLs tell me your opinion.

June 21, 2018

Nadia F.

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Sunny

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Pit bull

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Slight Limping
Reduced Appetite

My Sunny is a 4 or 5 year male old Pitbull mix. He weighs 60.70 lbs (he is a bit over weight). We took him to the vet yesterday because two days prior he had vomited twice (foamy yellow, no food) and was not eating with quite the same enthusiasm he had always had. He also had a slight limp but only sometimes. Originally, our vet told us it was probably something he ate but I wanted a 4dx to check for heartworm because after Hurricane María, we missed a few doses of the preventive medication. He tested positive for ehrlichia. His blood work shows low RBC, low HCT, low HGB, low MCV, low MCH, low WBC, low NEU, very low LYM, and very low PLT. They started him on a high dose of doxy and prednisone twice a day, injected him iron and B12 and ordered us to find Erythropoietin, as they don't have any due to cost. We were able to give him his first dose (0.27 cc) of the erythropoietin today and he is due to have it again 3 times a week. My question is... even if he doesn't show many clinical symptoms (his gums are ok, he is eating, etc), what is his prognosis? How can we know that his bone marrow has been compromised? (our vet explained that he doesn't have the equipment for that)

Jan. 31, 2018

Sunny's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Prognosis is generally good for dogs which are asymptomatic and with treatment with doxycycline for ten to twenty-one days along with supportive and symptomatic care should give the most favourable result. Blood transfusion is usually more favoured over erythropoietin but it depends on your Veterinarian’s judgement of the specific case. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 1, 2018

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Taddy

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Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Redness
Lethargy
Vomiting
Lack Of Appetite

Hello Doctor, My 3 yrs old shih tzu is positive for Ehrlichia and medication are provided ( Immunol Syrup, Nefrotec, Prednisone, BioCure) However my dog continuesly vomitting everyday. There are days were he will vomitt 2x yellow foam or white foam. Ive called the Doctor again and said it will only be alarming if my dog will be lethargy. Now I’m confused with what she said. Do I need my dog to be lethargy before doing some action rather than preventing it? Or its really normal with a dog suffering from Ehrlichia will be vomitting during the medication process? Also I noticed his left wyes is red, is it something to do withEhrlichia? Pls do help thank you

Jan. 10, 2018

Taddy's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Vomiting isn’t unusual and may be due to the Ehrlichiosis, medication side effects or due to an empty stomach and acid accumulation; you should continue the treatment as prescribed by your Veterinarian, especially the BioCure (doxycycline). Apart from that, you should ensure that Taddy remains hydrated and is fed small regular portions of food throughout the day to prevent the stomach from being empty. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 10, 2018

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Amadeus

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Siberian Husky

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16 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Iris Haemorrhage
Iris Haemorrhage And Nose Bleed

I have a 16 month old husky. I woke up to find my dog bleeding from the iris in both his eyes. We had been to a dog show all weekend and I thought it was an allergic reaction to grooming products. The vet agreed with me. He had a small nose bleed later that day. The vet had never seen a dog bleed from the iris before. My dog is showing no other symptoms and is literally bouncing off the walls in his normal crazy Manor. The only photos I could find online of iris haemorrhage was of a dog with ehrlichia. I went back to the vet and asked about testing but he said no need. The next day the eyes were swollen and the blood had moved so I couldn't see the normal colour. I arranged an appointment with an eye specialist. He said it couldn't be an allergic reaction and he had never seen anything like it before. He sent me back to my vet and he finally ran some blood tests. They have come back as Anaplasma 1/100 and Ehrlichia 1/500 blood clotting is good. He hasn't done a full blood panel though and said there is no need. I have done a lot of reading and I have no idea at what stage my dog is. If we don't do more tests how will I know if the bone marrow is effected? My pups mother died 6 weeks ago from kidney failure bought on by leishmaniasis. Her only symptom was a runny nose. The vet said she didn't have leishmaniasis and it was OKgto give her a rabies vaccination. I went back a week later as she had a lump on her eye and insisted on the test and a full blood panel. It came back positive for high levels of leishmaniasis, kidney and liver failing. She stopped eating 2 days late. Was sick the next night then after an hours walk she started to pace and walk into things I took her to the vet and they put her on a drip but she died during the night. I had her tested for tick diseases so I am worried the pup might have inherited Ehrlichia from her. I haven't seen any ticks around since the spring.

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Jax

dog-breed-icon

Doberman Pinscher

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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

Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Movement

So my dog Jax is a Doberman pincher. In 2012 he was ran over by a farm tractor no internal bleeding no broken bones. 2014 dx with Ehrlichiosis treated it. We know he has very bad arthritis so about two weeks ago he started having trouble getting up his back legs hurt and also getting off couch he would have to rock and sometimes even fell. So fast forward to Monday 11-5-18 took him to vet treated for arthritis started rimadyl and Wednesday started gabapentin by Thursday he was tripping over his own front front legs and would fall over. Took him back to vet he has Ehrlichiosis. By this point he’s not walking or even standing at all still feels his feet starting yesterday if I play with his pads he reacts. So then Monday we took him back to vet took him off rimadyl got a steroid shot and started on a steroid taper. Any words of advice? Do u think we will ever walk again?

Ehrlichiosis Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$2,000

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