Anaplasmosis in Dogs

Deer-tick-on-rightAnaplasmosis and How It Affects Your Dog

Anaplasmosis (also known as tick fever) is a bacterial infection spread through the bite of a Blacklegged or Deer tick. The Anaplasma phagocytophilum or Anaplasma platys bacteria are picked up by the tick when they bite an infected rodent or small mammal. These bacteria are then transmitted when the infected tick bites your dog. It is unknown how long a tick must be attached in order to transmit this disease.

The A. phagocytophilum and A. platys bacteria live in the blood stream and predominantly attack a specific category of white blood cells known as granulocytes. They can cause acute or chronic illness and major destruction in the body. Platelet and white blood cell destruction can lead to serious bleeding problems. Chronic joint pain, kidney disease, and neurological signs can also occur. Anaplasmosis can be a FATAL disease.

Lameness that sometimes shifts legs, hot and swollen joints, high fever, lethargy, reluctance to eat, vomiting and diarrhea can all be symptoms of Anaplasmosis. If you notice any of the above symptoms please call us immediately! We are located in an area endemic to Anaplasmosis. It is a serious disease that is becoming increasingly common.

Preventing Anaplasmosis can be done by using a monthl tick prevention. Frontline Plus, Activyl TickPlus (topical monthly medications), and Scalibor collars (lasting 6 months) are all medications that will help you control your dog’s exposure to the ticks that carry Anaplasmosis and other tick-borne diseases such as Ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease. Checking your dog for ticks every day will also help stop the spread of this disease. Make a habit of checking your dog over thoroughly whenever he/she comes in from outside. Unattached ticks can sometimes be seen walking on your dog’s fur and embedded ticks may feel like hard bumps on your dog’s skin. Ticks can attach to anywhere on the body but many people find that they tend to migrate to the head and neck area.

Anaplasmosis can be diagnosed here at the River Road Veterinary Clinic in about 10 minutes. The SNAP test is run using 3 drops of blood, and tests for exposure to Anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis (all tick-borne diseases),and heartworm. Certain acute cases will result in a negative SNAP test. The 4Dx SNAP test is sometimes referred to as a “Heartworm” test and is recommended annually.

If your dog is diagnosed with Anaplasmosis, there are a few different tests that can be performed. A Complete Blood Count is always recommended due to the serious bleeding complications that can arise from platelet abnormalities. A Complete Blood Count is a blood test than can be run here or sent out to the lab that lets us evaluate your dog’s red and white blood cells and clotting factors. The red blood cells and white blood cells, and platelets can be affected by Anaplasmosis. A urinalysis is a test done here using a small amount of urine that allows us to see if your dog is losing protein in his/her urine (indicating kidney disease) and how well the kidneys are working to concentrate urine. If we discover that your dog is losing protein through his/her urine a specialized urine test called a Urine Protein:Creatinine Ratio is sent to the lab to evaluate the extent of the protein loss and disease.

Anaplasmosis is treated with a 30 day course of a twice daily oral antibiotic, usually Doxycycline. Most dogs respond very quickly to treatment (within 24-48 hours) and have a very good long-term prognosis if treated early. River Road Veterinary Clinic recommends treating all Anaplasmosis positive dogs with antibiotics, even if they are not showing symptoms. The antibiotic does not always clear the infection from the system. A Repeat SNAP test is recommended 6 months after treatment. Dogs who remain positive can be treated with an additional round of antibiotics.

If you find a tick on your dog at home you should remove it immediately. You can remove an embedded tick by grasping it as close to the skin as possible (with tweezers, your fingers, or a specialized tick removal tool) and pulling firmly straight back. It is NOT necessary to remove the head of the tick if you believe it is still in your dog. You do not need to do anything to treat the wound, but you may use hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic ointment if you wish. Some degree of redness and swelling around the area is normal. Watch for signs of infection such as a malodorous smell, discharge, increasing redness and painful swelling. It takes at least 2-3 weeks from the time of infection to detect Anaplasmosis on the SNAP test.

Please note that the majority of dogs infected with Anaplasmosis do not show symptoms. These dogs experience a “silent infection”. Some dogs will always remain asymptomatic, and others will exhibit symptoms at a seemingly random point later in their lives. Because of the possible bleeding complications associated with Anaplasmosis, treatment is recommended even for silent infections.

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