You’ve probably heard of Lyme disease. If you live in an area where Lyme is prevalent, your dog may even have gotten the Lyme vaccine. What you might not be aware of is that Lyme is not the only tick-borne disease that can affect dogs.
Anaplasmosis is another tick-borne disease that can have serious consequences for your canines.
What is Anaplasmosis?
Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne disease, which means it is transmitted by ticks infected with the bacteria A. phagocytophilum or A. platys.
The deer tick and the western black-legged tick carry anaplasmosis phagocytophilum, while the brown dog tick transmits the lesser form of anaplasmosis, caused by Anaplasma platys bacteria.
Both strains of anaplasmosis are in the same order as some of the other tick-borne diseases you might be familiar with, such as Ehrlichia, Cowdria, and Wolbachia, and they present with many of the same symptoms as Lyme disease.
How Do Dogs Get Anaplasmosis?
Dogs get infected with anaplasmosis after coming into contact with infected ticks. However, this infection does not happen immediately. Veterinarians suspect that it takes 24 hours or more for an attached and feeding tick to transmit the disease, which is good news for dogs on effective preventatives.
Most tick preventatives kill ticks in 24 hours or less, which means your dog is protected from tick-borne diseases. Of course, preventatives are not 100 percent effective, and even dogs regularly on tick preventatives can contract a disease such as anaplasmosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Anaplasmosis in Dogs?
The common symptoms of A. phagocytophilum are lameness , fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, and lethargy. These symptoms typically last from one-to-seven days, but some dogs may only have minor symptoms, while others may also present with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and coughing.
A. platys, on the other hand, causes thrombocytopenia. This condition causes a periodic decrease in platelets, which are the blood cells that help with clotting, and can also result in nosebleeds, bruising, and bleeding, although the disease is often mild.
Many of these symptoms are similar to the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs. To make things more complicated, anaplasmosis and Lyme are often found in the same geographic areas, and since they are transmitted by the same species of ticks, simultaneous infection of both Lyme and anaplasmosis can occur.
How Is Anaplasmosis Diagnosed?
There are several diagnostic tests that can diagnose anaplasmosis in dogs. Your veterinarian will determine the test that he feels is best suited for your dog’s condition and area. Some of the available tests include enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA), and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and in some cases the bacterial organism can even be seen under a microscope.
How Is Anaplasmosis Treated?
Anaplasmosis is treated with the same protocol as ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease. Your veterinarian may prescribe the antibiotic doxycycline for your dog, to get the infection under control, and you may begin to see signs of improvement in your dog’s symptoms in as little as 24-to-48 hours.
Antibiotics do not always clear the organism from the body. Your dog may continue to pop up positive on blood tests after he has returned to normal. However, veterinarians usually do not treat these dogs with a second round of antibiotics, and a positive blood test does not necessarily mean that your dog has an active infection. Dogs that live in areas with a high incidence of anaplasmosis or Lyme may even show up positive for anaplasmosis without showing any signs of an active infection.
In general, the prognosis for dogs with anaplasmosis is good. Most dogs recover, however subclinical and chronic anaplasmosis infection in dogs is rare.
Can People Get Anaplasmosis?
Anaplasmosis is a zoonotic disease found in many parts of the world. It affects dogs, cats, livestock, wildlife, and people. It is highly unlikely that you will contract anaplasmosis from your dog directly, but your dog could be bringing ticks with the infection into your home, posing a risk to you and your family. If your dog is diagnosed with anaplasmosis, make sure you take precautionary measures to remove ticks from yourself, your family, and your pets to reduce the risk of infection.
Can You Prevent Anaplasmosis?
The best way to combat tick-borne diseases is prevention. Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick preventative for your area to make sure your dog is protected from tick-borne diseases.
Also, consider daily tick exam of your dog — especially if he's recently been in a field or in grassy endemic areas. The sooner a tick is located and removed, the lesser the chance of an infection.