Ehrlichiosis in Dogs on the rise in UAE
While fleas can give rise to a bunch of skin problems in cats and dogs and can act as the intermediate host for a tapeworm, Ticks are vectors for some nasty diseases like Canine Ehrlichiosis, Lyme’s disease and Canine and Feline Babesiosis. Apart from these diseases, a tick bite can cause skin irritations in some sensitive animals and can exacerbate an existing skin sensitivity problem while a heavy infestation cause severe anaemia.
Ticks are a common pest for animals outside for any period. We advise checking your pet regularly for ticks. You might find two apparently different types of ticks. One will be small (the size of a match head) and flat, and the other will be greyish in colour and often quite large (pea-sized).The first is the male tick and the second is the female after having had a blood meal. With the temperatures in Dubai, ticks are prevalent all year round.
Ticks bury their heads in the skin of your pet and gorge themselves on blood, causing mild irritation; however, ticks may also carry several debilitating diseases that pose a serious threat to animals and humans. One of those diseases is Ehrlichiosis, and we noticed that we see this disease more and more often in our UAE Pet Population and therefore in our Al Barsha Veterinary Clinic. Ehrlichiosis is also seen in humans. However, this is not the same parasite as found in dogs. The Ehrlichia species are spread via different types of ticks, and different types of ticks inhabit different areas of the world.
What is Ehrlichiosis and what symptoms are commonly seen?
Ehrlichiosis is caused by a parasite that lives in the blood cells of different species including dogs. The Parasite is transferred by tick bites and causes three phases of illness: acute, subclinical and chronic.
Acute Phase: generally mild phase occurring 1-3 weeks after the dog is bitten by the tick. The Ehrlichia parasite is replicated at this time and is attaching to white blood cell membrane. The platelet count will drop, and an immune – mediated platelet destruction will occur. Dogs are listless, unwilling to eat, may show enlarged lymph nodes. Sometimes fever is noted, but there is hardly ever a life threatening situation. Treatment at this stage will result in general, clear the organism, failure to treat will bring dog to next phase
Subclinical phase: Dogs appear normal, however sequestering of the organism in the spleen is taking place. This phase can continue for months or even years. Some minor changes in the blood count can indicate in this direction but not often recognized.
Chronic Phase: in this phase the dog gets sick again. Abnormal bleeding due to reduced platelet number, deep inflammation in the eyes (uveitis) can occur, a neurologic effect can be seen, glomerulonephritis, resulting in serious urinary protein loss can be noticed. Blood testing will show elevated globulin levels and low albumin.
Infection with Ehrlichia Lewinii can produce arthritis as well as all above mentioned.
Diagnosis made by taking a collection of test results and typical findings. Positive Ehrlichia test indicates exposure but not necessarily the active infection, nor does a negative Ehrlichia titer indicate no infection. So it is a complicated diagnosis requiring follow up and further investigation, and a combination of test and symptoms finally will bring the diagnosis.
Treatment is done by long term Antibiotic gift (Tetracycline/doxycycline) in which immediate improvement can be seen in first few days. Secondary reactions can however still cause problems in which case palliative treatment has to be started while dog undergoes antibiotic treatment. No treatment in the chronic phase will cause the dog to die.
Immunity on Ehrlichia Infection is not lasting and re-infection can occur.
Avoid infection with Ehrliachia parasites by treatment against ticks. If the ticks are unattached, you can simply remove them from your pet with a pair of tweezers (available in the clinic). If the head is buried in the skin of your pet, use an ear bud and dab some tick spray or dip on the tick and remove it with tweezers when it disengages. If you live in an area where ticks are prevalent, then regular dipping and spraying for ticks are required. We have several products available in the clinic to treat your pet against ticks. Be aware that cats can be very sensitive to the various anti – tick products and therefore, it is essential that you consult a veterinarian to ensure the product is safe for your pet before using it.