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Ehrlichiosis In Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments

Ehrlichiosis In Dogs

Ehrlichiosis is a life-threatening zoonosis caused by the rickettsial agent Ehrlichia canis and the most common causative agent is Ehrlichia canis (E. canis). Not only E. canis, but other sunspecies of the bacteria are also suspected to be involved in ehrlichiosis in dogs. Reportedly ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and Borreliosis are the emerging zoonosis, which presents ownership risks for tick-infested pet dogs.

The main vector of the Ehrlichia organism is the dog brown tick (R. sanguineus). Many tick species have also been documented to spread the disease in dogs and may host other strains of Ehrlichia.

This infection is also called canine hemorrhagic fever, canine rickettsiosis, tropical canine pancytopenia, canine typhus, and tracker dog disease.

Although Ehrlichiosis is not considered a zoonotic pathogen, the possibility to infect humans cannot be ignored. As of now, Humans can contract ehrlichiosis from tick bites. While dogs cannot transmit the disease directly to humans, infected dogs serve as warnings or sentinels to get on the alert about the presence of infected ticks in the region.

Symptoms Of Ehrlichiosis

  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Lethargy
  • Joint pain and Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Labored breathing
  • Cough
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Ataxia (lack of muscle and movement control)
  • Chills
  • Blood clotting issues (such as cyclic thrombocytopenia)
  • Nosebleeds
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Treatment Options For Ehrlichiosis

Treatment includes a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain relievers.

Doxycycline, Minocycline, Chloramphenicol, and Tetracycline.

Doxycycline is the drug of choice (5–10 mg/kg/day, PO or IV). Most dogs respond within 24- 48 hours after they first take doxycycline.

Analgesia and anti-inflammatory drugs may be needed for joint pain.

Dogs with cyclic thrombocytopenia would be treated with platelet or whole-blood transfusions as needed, especially for extensive hemorrhage.

Home Remedies For Ehrlichiosis

What are common stops of ‘tick trail’ in dogs?

  1. Head
  2. Ears
  3. Under collar (if any)
  4. Elbows
  5. Groin region
  6. Under legs
  7. Toes
  8. Under the tail

Prevention Of Ehrlichiosis

  • A wide variety of effective tick collars, spot-on treatments, and oral medications are available; Consult with your veterinarian about the best product for your dog.
  • Ticks are most active in the spring and fall. While regions where ticks are prevalent (like North America), continual tick prevention is recommended.
  • Tick hotspots are patches of tall grass; suburban landscapes and overgrown bushes so keep them at bay by mowing, weeding, or trimming and maintaining a manicured lawn.
  • When you notice a significant infestation, use outdoor garden treatments like environmentally friendly tick sprays and deterrents for your yard.
  • Discourage your dog from roaming freely in grassy forested pathways and wooded tick-infested areas.
  • After any time spent in grassy or wooded areas, run a good old-fashioned "tick check” and feel for bumps on the dog tick trail.
  • Frisk your dog – in the ears, neck, belly, chest, back, and toes for any ticks.
  • Cut down the access of tick-carrying animals to your yard; always make sure trash bins and compost piles are placed safely to discourage any curious wild animals (opossums, raccoons, deers, skunks, etc).
  • You can rest assured that tick exposure to most healthy dogs never develops a tick-borne disease. But when it does, early detection, diagnosis, and prompt treatment are more than enough.

Affected Breeds Of Ehrlichiosis

There is no confirmed breed predisposition.

However, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are overrepresented in most reports.

German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher

Additional Facts For Ehrlichiosis

1. Causes:

  1. Canine Ehrlichiosis is a vector-borne disease that is distributed worldwide.
  2. Ehrlichia Canis bacteria are transmitted to the dog through the saliva of the brown tick.
  3. Co-infections between Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis have been reported as Anaplasma bacteria can also cause ehrlichiosis. hard-shelled Ixodes ticks transmit the bacteria through the saliva.
  4. The incubation period is about 1 to 3 weeks with a median of 9 days.
  5. Acute ehrlichiosis symptoms can resemble Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF).

2. Types:

Acute infection: This begins 1 to 3 weeks after the infected tick bite. The most common symptoms of acute infection are fever, lethargy, anorexia, moderate-to-severe thrombocytopenia, generalized lymphadenopathy, oculonasal discharge, hepatomegaly, and splenomegaly.

The sub-clinical stage: This has no obvious symptoms even though the infection is still present. The dog’s immune system may be able to eliminate the disease during this stage.

The chronic stage: The acute stage is followed by the chronic stage and this is the most serious stage of the infection. During this stage, the canine may suffer from non-regenerative anemia and have low white-blood-cell counts. The affected dogs may experience Hemorrhagic diathesis, hemorrhagic nasal bleeding, and kidney disease. The bacteria may also spread into the organ tissues, especially those of the lung, bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and liver.

3. Mortality:

When the infection occurs only in the blood or if it is identified in the starting stage, it is usually cured with standard treatments. Disseminated and chronic Ehrlichiosis can be really fatal.

4. Diagnosis:

  • Complete blood count test (CBC)
  • ELISA test
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test

5. Prognosis:

The prognosis for Ehrlichiosis is really good. Most dogs undergoing treatment will recover within a few weeks. The chances of recovery of Dogs that have chronic Ehrlichiosis is guarded due to the damage to the vital organs. If left untreated, severe cases of Ehrlichiosis can be fatal for dogs, so head to your vet immediately.

When To See A Vet

Contact your vet right away, if you notice any of the following:

  • Rolling outward or sagging lower eyelid, exposing tissue below the eyeball
  • Unable to fully close their eyelids
  • Mucoid discharge along the eyelids

Food Suggestions For Ehrlichiosis

  • Folate: liver, yeast (such as nutritional yeast), green vegetables such as spinach, Brussel sprouts, silverbeet, and kale.
  • Vitamin B-12: eggs, beef liver.
  • Iron: lean meats like ground beef and lamb, fish, such as sardines and salmon, pumpkin, carrots, and leafy greens.
  • Vitamin C and bioflavonoids: Brussel sprouts, spinach, broccoli, kale, pineapple, papaya, strawberries, etc.
  • Chicken soup bone broth (or use beef or lamb bones).


Sometimes, dogs with Ehrlichiosis may be asymptomatic, but if the dog has symptoms, they usually appear a week or two after being bitten by an infected tick. If left untreated, severe cases of Ehrlichiosis can be fatal for dogs, so head to your vet immediately.

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