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.

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326 Comments

  1. You are very welcome

  2. My seven year old mixed breed dog was just diagnosed with ehrlichiosis from a blood test at her annual exam today,, so we started her with doxycycline today. In reading about this I see that the eye discharge that she has been having for more than a year might have been part of this. She had been at the vet several times and I had mentioned her runny eyes but a different vet ( same practice) said it was nothing., no blood test ever done till today. She also has violent trembling from time to time but only while sleeping. I am now wondering if these are all related to the ehrlichiosis and what her prognosis is. She eats ok, runs a LOT, and generally seems fine.

    • HI Beverly. Some excellent questions and observations. First of all, a SINGLE IN HOUSE blood test done at a local veterinary office does NOT mean that your dog definitely has Ehrlichiosis, if this in house test is positive. This only means exposure at one point in the pet’s life, but NOT necessarily active infection. You would to have additional testing done including quantitative antibody level rises over several weeks, or more accurate testing such as PCR testing to truly diagnose active infection. Also eye discharges are nonspecific findings of MANY possible diseases, including simple allergies to more complex eye diseases. I doubt due to Ehrlchiosis, but you could get expert opinion from local vet eye specialist in your area

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