Erlichiosis is a group of tick-borne disease that can cause devastating affects to the immune system, and overall health in general.


How does an animal contract Erlichia?

Erlichiosis is a disease that develops once the host has been bitten by an infected tick. While some animals may acquire the disease without any symptoms or affects, others will develop troubling symptoms, and possibly become gravely ill.

What are the symptoms of erlichiosis?

There are three stages of erlichiosis. Acute (early disease), clinical or chronic (long-standing infection), and sub-clinical (no outward signs of disease.)

Most dogs are often seen in the acute stage of the illness, as this stage presents the sudden and alarming symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bleeding disorders (anemia, coagulopathies, bleeding episodes, etc)
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Weight loss
  • Neurological symptoms

The sub-clinical phase of this disease will display no symptoms, but the organism will be present in diagnostic testing. This phase of the disease often leaves pets undiagnosed, due to there being no specific reason to test for the illness.

How can you test for erlichiosis?

When testing for erlichiosis, it’s important to know that antibodies for the disease may not be present until about 2-3 weeks after infection. Testing performed a few weeks after exposure will allow the antibodies to be detected during an in clinic snap test (4DX), or sending a sample to the lab for ELISA testing.

Though it is more rare, the organism can sometimes be seen on a blood smear or in samples of cells taken from various organs in the body.

How is erlichia treated?

The recommended course of treatment for erlichiosis is a 3-5 week course of the antibiotic Doxycycline. Though a course of antibiotics is needed to eradicate the bacteria, some pets may still require other supportive care. Due to the potential of anemia and other bleeding disorders, some patients will require blood products to pull them out of crisis.

How can you prevent erlichiosis?

The only way to prevent erlichiosis is through the prevention of ticks in general. While you cannot contract erlichia directly from your pet, you can get erlichiosis from the infected ticks that your pet may carry.Talking to your veterinarian about a reliable tick prevention for your pet can help to prevent exposure to the bacteria.

If you learned anything from this article, take a look at our article about Dog ticks, and learn about the different types of ticks that you may see on your pet.