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TICK FEVER IN DOGS
EHRLICHIOSIS, more commonly known as TICK FEVER, is generally caused by an organism known as a rickettsia, Ehrlichia canis. In recent years, several other species of this parasite have also been identified. This organism is partly like bacteria, partly like a virus, and acts as a parasite of the body's blood cells and organs. The infection is transmitted from an infected dog to another by the bite of common ticks, although new research has found other unusual means whereby the disease may be transmitted.
Once a dog is infected with the organism, it may become quite sick 8-20 days later, or the dog may develop a slowly progressive chronic illness, which will not manifest clinical signs until months or years after initial infection. There is also what is called a subclinical or “hidden” form of the disease.
THE ACUTE FORM causes fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite, and is usually mild and easy to treat. It may be very difficult for the most skilled veterinarian to diagnose tick fever in this phase although blood testing may be helpful.
THE SUBCLINICAL FORM of the disease occurs when the dog is infected but has absolutely no symptoms! Blood tests performed for other reasons may indicate the infection is present. This stage of the disease may last for years!
THE CHRONIC FORM can cause severe anemia, lethargy, loss of appetite, weakness, weight loss, organ dysfunction, organ failure, and sudden hemorrhage from the nose, bowels, or kidneys, all leading towards death. Other problems include eye diseases and neurologic dysfunctions. Most cases of tick fever are diagnosed during this chronic phase of the disease.
TREATMENT is usually very effective with most dogs showing good improvement shortly after treatment has begun. However, because of the severe and chronic nature of the disease, long term monitoring and even some repeating of treatments may be required to keep your dog healthy.
Very advanced cases can require hospital care and blood transfusions. Tick control and testing dogs in the same area may also be important so don't hesitate to ask us for specific recommendations.