If you are like most dog owners, you could not wait for the warmer days of spring and summer to arrive. Not only are the days warmer, but they are longer, which gives you more time to spend in the great outdoors with your dog. Unfortunately, the increased time that you spend outside will also place your pet at risk of being exposed to canine vector-borne diseases including Ehrlichiosis. Understanding what a vector is, and some of the diseases that they can expose your dog to, is the first step to protecting your pet from Ehrlichiosis, as well as others.
What Is A Vector?
Canine Vector-Borne Diseases (CVBD), are any diseases that are transferred to your pet through a parasitic carrier or vector. But exactly what is a vector or a carrier? These are any organism that is able to transmit a disease between one infected animal and another host without getting sick themselves. The most common vectors of CVBD include:
- Sand fleas
- Deer flies and others
Unfortunately, it only takes one bite from an infected vector to transmit the disease they are infected with to your dog. Therefore the key to reducing the chances of your pet becoming infected is prevention prior to your dog being exposed to the carrier.
What Are Canine Vector-Borne Diseases?
There is a substantial list of canine vector-borne diseases that pose a risk to your pet. Some of the more common ones that you hear a lot about include:
- Lyme Disease
- Anaplasmosis and others
What Is Ehrlichiosis?
One of the diseases that you do not hear as much about is Ehrlichia or Ehrlichiosis. This is a disease that is caused by a type of bacteria called Rickettsia. It usually carried to your dog by a tick. Although it can be transmitted to humans by flea and mite bites, this is a less common cause of transmission to your pet. The most common tick carriers include:
- Brown dog ticks
- Brown deer ticks
- Lone star ticks
- American deer ticks
This disease has three very distinct stages, and unfortunately your dog may not even show signs of the disease until 1 - 3 weeks after they have been exposed. This can be a very serious disease, and if the symptoms are not treated, it can possibly lead to the death of your pet. The stages are:
Acute Stage - During this stage of the disease, your dog may appear to have a lack of energy. They may run a fever or begin to refuse to eat. You may notice that they have enlarged lymph nodes, and if you take your dog to be seen, blood work may show a low platelet count. With the proper treatment, most dogs are able to recover at this stage.
Subacute Stage - If you do not have your pet treated at an animal hospital, or if your pet does not respond to treatment, they may move on to the subacute stage phase where they literally can stay for months or years. During this stage the platelet count will often get even lower, and your dog may be diagnosed with thrombocytopenia.
Thrombocytopenia will affect how your pet's blood clots, and although your dog may not initially show signs of bleeding, you may begin to see these signs as the disease progresses and the blood count continues to drop. Depending on how long your pet has been in this stage, their treatment could be much more difficult and more prolonged. Blood transfusions may be needed to increase your dog's blood count, as well as ongoing antibiotics.
Chronic Stage - Once your pet has reached this stage, you are aware that something is seriously wrong. They have normally experienced substantial weight loss, and they now have a depleted supply of red and white blood cells. They are at risk of hemorrhaging, which will eventually lead to their death. You will normally be advised at this point to put your dog to sleep to ease their pain.
What Can You Do?
Although there are no vaccinations to prevent ehrlichiosis, many vector-borne diseases do have one. Make sure your pet is vaccinated against these diseases. In addition to this ensure that you apply flea and tick applications that will cover them from their nose to the tips of their tails. It is just not enough to place a flea collar on them and think that they will be covered.
You also need to ensure that your dog has regular, ongoing medical care. Your veterinarian will not only look for signs and symptoms of disease in your pet, they will help to educate you on any other conditions that may be prevalent in your community at the time. They will be able to make recommendations as to specific types of treatment your dog may need. This may not only keep them safe from CVBDs, but from any other medical conditions as well.Share