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A Tick-Borne Illness on the Rise: Ehrlichiosis

Ticks are terrible. All summer long, we work to keep those nasty little critters away from our pets. Lyme disease is a commonly known tick-borne illness that we try to keep away from both our pets and ourselves. But Lyme isn’t the only thing we need to watch out for with our pets! Ehrlichiosis is yet another tick-borne illness that is steadily on the rise. If you live in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, southern California or the southeastern United States, be on the alert!

Just like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis can cause extreme sickness in dogs. It can begin with an acute infection which begins with appetite loss, fever and lethargy. Other symptoms can include weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and joint pain.

This sickness can further develop into something called thrombocytopenia about two to four weeks after an infected tick bites. With thrombocytopenia, a decrease of platelets occurs in a dog’s blood, resulting in petechiae, or bleeding into body tissues, as well as bruising. Clotting may occur more slowly and bone marrow suppression is also a risk.

Unfortunately, ehrlichiosis on its own can incubate for a long time. It can take several months to years to appear after a bite!

German Shepherds and other breeds are more predisposed to more severe forms of the sickness.

Cats are also at risk with the same symptoms.

Which Ticks Spread Ehrlichiosis?

There are three tick species that are known to spread the bacteria that cause ehrlichiosis: the American dog tick, the lone star tick and the brown dog tick.

How is it Treated?

Treatment typically includes antibiotics that take out the bacteria. Occasionally blood transfusions and other therapies may be necessary. Improvement in acute symptoms can be seen in as little as 24 to 48 hours once treatment begins. More chronic cases will likely take longer.

How to Prevent Tick-Borne Illness

Many products that are effective for flea prevention are also used to prevent ticks. Talk with your veterinarian about which products are best for you and your pet.

If you find a tick on your pet, remove it by grasping it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently pluck it out. Try not to leave any pieces behind.

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