Ehrlichia in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

While most people are most concerned about the tick transmitted Lyme disease, there is another disease transmitted by certain species of ticks known as Ehrlichia. Signs of Ehrlichia can occur 1-3 weeks after the bite of an infected tick, and in the acute phase of the disease, symptoms may last up to a few weeks. The organism likes to live inside blood cells and can destroy the platelets involved with blood clotting. Organisms can also be found inside lymph nodes, the bone marrow, liver and spleen.

Ehrlichia is another common tick-borne disease for dogs in addition to Lyme disease

Symptoms of Ehrlichia in dogs during the acute phase can vary from joint pain and stiffness, fever, lethargy, bruising and anemia. Many dogs can overcome the infection on their own, but others may enter a subclinical or chronic phase of infection, which can be much more difficult to clear and/or treat. In some cases, chronic neurological symptoms can occur as well as inflammation of the eyes. Some dogs can have repeated bouts of illness, especially during periods of stress.

Diagnosis of Ehrlichia is typically based on blood tests often run at the veterinary office, in conjunction with clinical signs being present of illness. It is important to recognize that many dogs with Ehrlichia can test positive but have no clinical signs, and in those cases treatment is not always needed. Treatment is typically instituted with a 3 to 4 week course of either tetracycline or Doxycycline, and most animals improve within several days of instituting therapy.

The best advice that can be given to prevent this disease is to practice good tick prevention including use of products such as Frontline Plus, Flea4X Plus, or Advantix II. Tick collars such as the Preventic Tick Collar also may be used. Although humans can also occasionally come down with Ehrlichiosis, it is only through tick bites, and not from dogs.

Comments

  1. Ashley says

    I would like to add my fur baby is 15.67 lbs and started his treatment June 11th, 3 pm for his steroid shot and 5pm for his doxy.

  2. Natasha says

    Hi,
    My Lhasa apso is two years old. He started breathing heavily two days ago. He vomited frothy fluid too. I took him to the vet. He had 104 degrees Fahrenheit fever. The vet did a ehrlichia canis immunoglobin test. It was negative. He suspected ehrlichiosis and started tetracycline IV once a day. My dog has received two doses. He still has 103 degrees fever. He is breathing heavily. Respiratory rate is super high.he is panting. Please help. Do u think diagnosis is correct? What else could it be? Please reply quickly thank you

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Does not sound like correct diagnosis to me esp if test negative. Ask for complete Blood work, x rays and ultrasound.

  3. Joyce says

    I have a question. My dog is a rescue from the Caribbean, we brought her home last July since she was blind we were concerned about her care. Recently she hasn’t been eating and had lost weight, did a blood panel which indicated leukemia. We did a another test and had it sent to the University of Colorado. I chatted with the woman from the shelter where we got the dog, she said to check for Ehrlichia so we did a titer for that also. She tested positive for Elrlichia so we have been treating her with doxycycline. Now the test has come back and the T Cells indicate either Lymphoma or Leukemia. My vet is suggesting to see an oncologist about an ultrasound and a bone marrow aspirate. The fees I’m getting are over $1000+. Should I wait to see if Stormy recovers from the chronic phase. She is approx. 8 + yrs old and about 14 lbs. Thank you for you time.

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Tough questions. Sorry to hear about your dog. Consulting with oncologist probably best conventional vet move. Also consider exploring homeopathy. To learn more see the information and referral list on website http://www.drpitcairn.com

      • Joyce says

        Thank you for your response. After seeing the oncologist it is not all gloomy news. I have hope of having Stormy for a few more years. Thanks again!

        • Sarah says

          Very curious on what you did find out from the oncologists we have a very similar situation only kinda reversed. First told infection (none specified) and had been treating for that then was told t-cell lymphoma so started treating with prednisone and stopped the doxy after only 2weeks.

  4. plum says

    My 14yr old American Staffordshire Bull Terrier was just diagnosed with Ehrlichiosis and is on Minocycline 100mg 3 caps twice a day for 21 days. My vet didnt tell me much about this. Everything I’m reading still says she may not make it throw this. Any information or guidance is appreciated

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      True Ehrlichia does have guarded prognosis, as sometimes this parasite can cause bleeding problems, low white counts, platelet counts, etc Many dogs become carriers and never get sick the rest of their lives.

  5. Tori says

    My 55 lb dog tested positive for Lyme disease and shows no symptoms. She’s chasing ducks in the water and running around the park 5-6 hours at a time and hasn’t lost her appetite at all. The vet suggested 200mg of doxycycline every 12 hrs. Is this right because I see you suggested 2.5mg to 5mg per lb and I don’t want to overdose her. Thanks!

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Hi Tori. Your vet’s dose is fine as mine is range from 2.5 to 5 mg per pound once to twice daily. Whether to treat an asymptomatic dog who tests positive is controversial. Many dogs exposed to lyme disease, can test positive but most never show any signs of disease or infection.

  6. Debbie says

    My 4 month old boxer was diagnosed with Ehrlichiosis a week ago. He was just released from the vets office and we brought him home yesterday. He is on doxicyline, amoxicillin, tramadol, and lasix. He is still rather swollen and has no function of either leg on his right side. He can sit up with a lot of effort bit he cannot stand or walk. Will this come back? Is there anything we can do to help rehab him back to walking?
    Thank you.

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Sounds like another diagnosis has been missed here as Ehrlichia does not cause paralysis like this typically. Sometimes oral cortisone like prednisone can help, so I would have recheck exam with your vet.

  7. Maya says

    Hi, my dog Jasper recently tested positive for Ehrlichia, so I brought him to a vet who put him on Amoxicilin. He vomitted while being on two pills a day, so I gave him a break and re-started him at one pill a day. But after a few days of that, he peed about a 1/4 of a tablespoon of blood (that I know of) in his pee. Could this be the Ehrlichia, Amoxicilin or something else? Thank you so much!

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Could be related to Ehrlichia which affects bone marrow and blood clotting in some dogs due to affect on platelet numbers. I also prefer a prescription antibiotic different than amoxi. Doxycycline is first choice in most cases and I would ask your vet about this.

  8. Tammy says

    My 11 year old Black Lab has been diagnosed with Ehrlichia He has not shown any symptoms The vet prescribed Minocycline 100 mg.because he said that the Doxycycline has gone through the roof in costs. Although when I tried to fill the prescription for the minocycline it is $200-375.00 for 224 capsules. Is this accurate, and will the minocycline work as well?

      • Tammy says

        Also, after calling around – I was able to find the Doxycycline – which is what he wanted to prescribe in the first place. But the Vet Clinic where I found it, said that to give my 11 year old, 91 lb. Lab 400 mg. in the AM and then 400 mg. in the PM was way too much. She recommended only giving him 200 mg. in the AM and 200 mg. in the PM. What is correct?

        • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

          Dose of doxy has wide range from 2.5 to 5 mg per pound once to twice daily. 200 mg twice daily is a bit low…. I would go with minimum dose of 250 mg twice daily to a maximum dose of 500 mg twice daily.

  9. Irene says

    What is the LONG TERM prognosis for a 12 month old Toy Manchester infected and treated for Ehrlichiosis at 12 weeks? He developed slight bowing of his stifle joints, but runs, jumps and currently shows no ill effects. His vet says he’s in excellent health. He is out of 2 champions and even won points at a recent AKC dog show! I was worried about arthritis as I am thinking of buying him for a pet. I have videos of him running and jumping the same as his sister. I would appreciate a professional response if possible.

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Many dogs dont have any problems with chronic relapsing arthritic symptoms from Ehrlichia , however occasionally in other dogs a chronic relapsing infection is possible. I would make sure on good natural low carb, low grain diet like wysong epigen diet from 1800petmeds, as well as use supplements like proanthozone from 1800petmeds, as well as yucca intensive glycoflex.

      • Irene says

        Thank you for your response. I also know not to allow these dogs to get overly stressed. The terrier has had 3 x-rays looking for joint issues, but none were found in spine, hips or legs. Breeder says the muscles running along the stifle joint were compromised and the legs have compensated by developing larger thighs. He looks like he works out! LOL I’m not as worried about this, as I would be joint problems and would definitely keep him on a specific diet.

  10. Wendy says

    My asymptomatic dog is at the end of her doxycycline treatment for Lyme disease and I’ve noticed that she has 1.5 pills left when she shouldn’t have any. Since she missed one of her AM/PM dosages, do I have to restart her the treatment? THANKS!

  11. Alex says

    i have a 10 year old mutt mix her name is misty. I love my dog with all my heart she has gotten me through some rough times and i refuse to let this crap hurt her she was just diagnosed with Ehrlichia but she has no signs of the test just came up positive my worst fear is that it will eventually hurt her or get worse. We always use her monthly tick medicine and i just cant believe this has happened to her. Do you think if we give her the doxy treatment that it will eradicate this crap before it gets bad or before it activates in her body. After reading these stories i am so disheartened and feel like no dog gets better from this. Please advise should we do the antibiotics now while she is still strong and normal. I feel like waiting for symptoms to occur is a terrible idea.

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      I think a one month course of doxycycline is fine to use now, but there are no guarantees that this will eradicate the disease, as some dogs still have chronic ehrlichia that can resurface later. I find working with holistic vets the best way at helping build the immune system, given the limitations of simply antibiotics alone in curing this.

  12. Jeremy says

    My 3 1/2 year old pitbull Ray has been diagnosed with ehrlichia. About a month ago he wasnt eating and sick so we took him to the Vet and they tested for ehrlichia and was negative. A few days later he looked better and was playing more. I was like ok bad food or something. Fast forward a to July 23-24 he started having seizures. Then late on the 24th had major seizure I thought he was going to die. Called emergency Vet (different vet)at 3 in morning they gave him valium and IV and retested him where he tested postive plus high liver values and blood cell count bad. He stayed there for 5 days and put on Doxy and liver herbs,it was not until the 4th day he looked a little better with less salivation but still off from seizure. We took him home this Wenesday and he had two more small seizures but has not had any since. At times it seems like he is getting better but now he is limping alot more even thou he has been limping a little for a year (wonder if this caused it). Right now he is much better than he was but I am still worried about my best buddy. Here is a few questions if you could please answer.

    How long on average does it take before antibiotic take affect and you see a difference in liver and blood cell count?

    Will the limping subside when the disease is under control and is there any supplement I can give him?

    Even thou it is different for every dog in your experience what is the normal time frame that a dog responds to treatment and returns to his oldself?

    Thank You for your time and support. It is harder here in Mexico to get answers from Vets than in the US.

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Usually antibiotics work within 2 to 3 weeks to see effects on liver and count. Limping should subside. Try supplements like proanthozone and yucca intensive from 1800petmeds. Usually dogs respond within a few weeks. I find this disease difficult to predict in response to traditional drugs. You may want to consult with homeopathic vet To learn more about homeopathy go to http://www.beyondflatearth.com http://www.drpitcairn.com as well as my website http://www.doctordym.com Many homeopathic vets offer phone consultations.

  13. says

    my dog has been diagnosed with tick disease, here in Guanacaste costa rica. her eyes are very cloudy with a lot of discharge.this has persisted for over two weeks of antibiotic therapy, two pills twice a day. it looks like she is going blind. for two days there has been a spot of blood in the middle of her eye. is there hope for saving her vision? is this a symptom of the tick disease or something else? she is also on antibiotic eyedrops twice a day but i don’t see much improvement. Help!

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      The bleeding in the eye can occur as a result of bleeding tendency from the tick born disease. I would make sure she has been on antibiotic like doxycycline for several weeks orally. Also ask vet for referral to specialist in your area if possible.

    • Jeremy says

      Her liver enzymes are probably real high make sure she gets something for the liver. I live in mexico and know its had to get some stuff but if you can get Country Life Liver Support Factors did my dog wonders. Believe me my dod was in bad shape coundnt see for days was on some other liver supplement here once I changed to Country Life it was incredible. Good luck with her she can come back.

  14. Likk Mii says

    What ever you do stay away from anything with high levels of iron or you’re wasting your time with doxy.

  15. Eric Sugi says

    Hello Dr, Dym,

    My 2 dogs were prescribed with Doxy for 30 days but platelet count was still low 2 weeks after. They were then given 2 shots of Imizol, 2 weeks apart, then a test “confirmed” they were cured of Ehrlichia. Should I have then retested and this time with ELISA? Thanks a million.

  16. Grace says

    Hi! I have a dog that needs to travel overseas but has failed the tick fever test due to it’s history and will not be permitted to travel. Is there a possibility of it ever testing negative eventually? Thanks!

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Many pets will test negative with time and if they are not re exposed. That could be months or even years in some cases. Every pet is different.

  17. Freddy Fagundes says

    I adopted a street dog just three months ago. She is about two years old and similar in appearance to a small labrador. She needed to be treated for tick infestation. She was symptomless but overnight developed blue eye and two days later she became completelyblind even though the blue appeared to be improving. She is aneamic also but eating well, full of energy and has no symptoms other than the blindness. She is being treated with Doxy. Could someone let me know the probability of her recovering her eyesight. Thanks.

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Hard to say answer to this. I would make appointment to see veterinary opthomologist to evaluate eyesight and long term prognosis.

      • Freddy Fagundes says

        Hi Dr Dun, thank you for answering so many questions on this site. I am from Brazil and each vet here gives a different diagnosis/prognosis etc. for which they charge a lot. Three days after 150 mg 2X day Doxy her eyes are clearing nicely from zombie white to brown again. She appears to be regaining a little of her sight and there is still some cloudiness so hopefully that will clear and her sight return.

  18. Natalie Kay says

    Hi Dr Dym
    Our dog tested positive for E canis using IFA test her titer is 1:100. Could I ask is that high? what is the point at which the test will come back negative? also how long do you think it would take for the antibodies to reduce to show a negative result. She has not been symptomatic, we never found a tick, no hikes (we live in manhattan) and are now doing a re-test. We are due to export her back to australia and are beside ourselves with worry. Any advice is so greatly appreciated.
    Nat

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Great questions. Noone knows how long titers will last on exposure to Ehrlichia, as well as no one really knows if positive titers mean a dog ever had symptoms or will ever get sick. It just means exposure. Not sure about what levels would be for test to come out negative. Given how the only traditional options we have are multiple courses of doxycycline and/or prednisone if your dog becomes clinical, I would try improving her overall level of health through a more holistic life style, etc http://www.doctordym.com

  19. Jackie says

    Hello,
    I am with rescue in Florida. Many dogs come out and test positive for Ehrlichia . The vet is using the following dosage. 6/100mg doxi a day for 30 days.. Please advise if this is too much. It seems a bit extreme and it is very costly due to the outrageous prices the pharmas have hike the doxi up to . Does tetracycline do the same thing, have the same results and with no side effects? If so, what is the dosage. Please give in layman terms as I am not a vet :-) Thanks so much

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Dose of doxycycline is 2.5 to 5 mg per pound once to twice daily in a dog fro 3 to 4 weeks. Tablets or capsules come in 50 or 100 mg strength. As for tetracycline, i dont like using it because it causes more digestive upset and must be given three times daily.

  20. ding says

    Hi Dr Dym,
    I was in the process of exporting my dog to Australia unfortunately he was tested mild positive by the local vet e-canis test but his blood count was normal. The vet advised to give him 6 months doxy treatment before proceed with the lab test and further exporting procedures. I’m confused when Ehrlichia should affect the blood counts but his blood counts is fine but yet tested positive. I’m staying back in Singapore just for his relocation thingy. I’m so worry if he would failed the test after 6 months. Does the lab test concern on both the blood count and antibodies or just the antibodies itself?
    Thanks!

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      I would look at both the blood count AND the antibody test, but the antibody test can remain positive for years. I personally dont treat lab values, but the patient and only if clinical. I at most put dogs on 1-2 months of doxycycline, and then stop

  21. Ody says

    Hi!

    I’m from the Philippines. I have three male shih tzus (6 yrs, 5 yrs and 1 yr old). Last December, they were all diagnosed and treated for Ehrlichia infection, with the oldest one showing the worst symptoms (severe bruising). They are okay now. However, after about two weeks that they stopped their meds, the oldest one started showing signs of dominance and aggression. He would snap and bite my 5 yr old, even drawing blood. The 5 yr old now fights back and our home is becoming a big fighting arena. The 6 yr old does not attack the 1 yr old. Before all of this, the 6 yr old and the 5 yr old have been co-existing exeptionally well and we WERE in a state of perfect peace. Is there any clinical or even anecdotal reports of behavioral changes following treatment of Ehrlichiosis? If there is none, what could be causing their “sudden” behavioral changes. Thanks a lot.

    • Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian says

      Because Ehrlichia can cause neurological pathology in some pets, it is possible to see behavioral changes theoretically.

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