Tick Fever in dogs is caused by one of two parasites that are carried and transmitted by ticks. Ehrlichiosis is caused by parasites of the Ehrlichia species and are spread to dogs by the brown dog tick.
Ehrlichia causes illness by targeting the white blood cells called monocytes in the dog’s body. There are 3 phases of Ehrlichiosis in dogs:
Acute phase: This phase begins 1-3 weeks after exposure and signs include fever, lack of appetite and lethargy. Your vet may note enlarged lymph nodes and blood cell changes such as a reduction in platelet numbers. Most dogs recover from this phase, but some may progress to the later stages.
Subacute phase: in this phase, the dog may become anemic. The signs will be sub-clinical, which means they will be brewing at a very low level and may not cause any problems. This phase can last months to years.
Chronic phase: It is thought that when the dog’s immune response (ability to fight the disease) is ineffective, progression to the chronic phase will occur. Signs include lethargy, weakness, weight loss and hemorrhage (bleeding from skin, gums and internally). Bone marrow suppression occurs and this means that important blood cells are not produced, causing anemia and a weak immune system. Unfortunately, many dogs do not recover from this phase.
Ehrlichiosis is usually treated by an injection which is given, then repeated 2 weeks later. Antibiotics may also be prescribed. In some cases hospitalization with IV fluids may be needed.
Preventing exposure to ticks is the best way to try and protect your dog from Ehrlichiosis. Tick products are available from your veterinarian, and these should be used diligently especially during the warmer months and in areas where ticks are prevalent. During tick season, you should check your dog all over daily and remove any ticks found. Your vet or vet nurse can show you how to remove ticks on dogs.
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