Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis in Dogs and People

Tick-borne zoonotic diseases that can threaten your family and pets

Engorged Tick on a Dog

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Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are the terms used to describe the diseases caused by bacterial organisms known as Anaplasma and Ehrlichia, respectively. Many of the Anaplasma organisms were previously classified as Ehrlichia so you may still see them referred to that way in some references.

Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are both diseases that are carried by ticks. When an animal or person is bitten by an infected tick, they can become infected with the disease.

Signs in Dogs

Signs seen in dogs for both diseases can range from subclinical (showing little to no sign of disease) to life-threatening. When seen in pets, symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody noses
  • Bruises
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye disease
  • Neurological abnormalities

When humans contract the disease, the symptoms are very similar to those of dogs, with the addition of chills, severe headache, and muscle aches. Children who contract ehrlichiosis may develop a rash. Humans who have delayed treatment or have a weakened immune system may be at risk for a severe form of the illness. Signs of severe illness include respiratory and organ failure, which may lead to death.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Your Dog

Your veterinarian may run blood tests on your pet to look for the antibody and to determine if there's an active infection. If an infection is present, your dog may need a course of antibiotics. A dog's symptoms should improve within a day or two of beginning the treatment.

Anaplasma and Ehrlichia Infections in People

People become infected with anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis in essentially the same way that dogs do, through the bite of an infected tick. Typically, neither disease is passed directly from your dog to you. However, your dog can bring ticks into your home that can endanger you and your family.

In people, these diseases are also sometimes referred to as human monocytic ehrlichiosis or human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE), although HGE is most commonly referred to now as human anaplasmosis.

Prevention for Your Family and Pets

Since ticks are the means by which these diseases are transmitted, it makes sense that preventing tick bites and controlling ticks is the best method of preventing infection.

Consider using an effective flea and tick control product for your dog. Use medicated shampoos and dips of concentrated chemicals that kill ticks on contact. Check all pets thoroughly for ticks on a regular basis and remove them promptly when found. Make sure to look for ticks on your dog's toes, inside the ears, between the legs, and deep inside your pet's fur.

Check yourself thoroughly for ticks if you have been outdoors, particularly if you have been in a wooded area or another high-risk tick environment. Check your children thoroughly as well. Remove any ticks found promptly using tweezers. Pull upward with steady pressure and close to the skin. Immediately clean the bite with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Dispose of a live tick by placing it in a tightly sealed bag or container with alcohol. Consider using insect repellent when planning to visit areas likely to be infested with ticks.

Take measures to keep ticks out of your yard. Keep your grass mowed short and remove any high grasses or brush from near your house. Make your yard less tick-friendly by planting mint, sage, or marigolds as a way to deter the insect. Discourage tick-carrying deer and mice into your yard and invite birds that eat ticks, such as robins and bluebirds. Ticks are also adverse to garlic, onions, asparagus, tomatoes, and sunflower seeds.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.