When it comes to tick-born threats to your dog, Lyme disease usually gets all the attention. But anaplasmosis is another tick-borne disease that can cause bruising, lameness, and even uncontrolled bleeding in your pet. That’s why you should learn the signs of anaplasmosis and what to do if your pet contracts the disease.
What is Anaplasmosis?
Anaplasmosis, aka dog fever or dog tick fever, is a tick-borne disease that infects a dog’s bloodstream. Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the most common form of the disease, is transmitted by deer tick bites and infects white blood cells. Anaplasma platys, carried by the brown dog tick, affects the blood-clotting cells known as platelets.
Anaplasmosis, which also infects humans, is common throughout the United States and Canada wherever transmitting ticks thrive — including the Gulf states, California, and the upper Midwest, North-East, Mid-Atlantic, and Southwest regions. The Companion Animal Parasite Council predicts the disease could also be highly active in Great Lakes states and New England during 2019.
What are the Symptoms of Anaplasmosis?
A dog suffering the A. phagocytophilum form of anaplasmosis may display a range of symptoms anytime from one to seven days after infection. Some dogs may only have minor symptoms, while others may also present with ones that are more serious. Symptoms could include:
- Lack of appetite
- Joint pain and lameness
- Labored breathing
- Ataxia (lack of muscle and movement control)
Dogs infected with A. platys can show a periodic decrease in blood-clotting platelets and develop bruising and bleeding, particularly nosebleeds.
How is Anaplasmosis Diagnosed?
Doctors often have a hard time distinguishing between anaplasmosis and Lyme disease, which have some of the same symptoms, especially widespread joint inflammation. Sometimes a dog may have both diseases at once, because the same tick species transmit both illnesses.
If your veterinarian suspects your pet suffers from anaplasmosis, she’ll run blood tests to pinpoint the antibody culprit and determine if active infection is present. Some available tests include enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA), and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. In some cases, the bacterial organism can be seen under a microscope.
How is Anaplasmosis Treated?
Your veterinarian likely will prescribe a 30-day course of the antibiotic doxycycline, which is the same medicine that treats other tick-borne infections. Signs of improvement in a dog’s symptoms may be seen within 24 to 48 hours.
Even after your dog is back to his old self, he may still test positive for anaplasmosis. If the disease is not active, however, your vet will probably not prescribe more antibiotics.
Can You Get Anaplasmosis From Your Dog?
Technically, anaplasmosis is a “zoonotic pathogen,” which means it can spread from animal to animal and animal to human. It’s highly unlikely that you will contract anaplasmosis from your dog directly, but if you don’t control your dog’s tick exposure, he can bring anaplasmosis-bearing ticks into the house, where they can bite and infect you.
What are the Best Ways to Control Ticks?
The best way to prevent your dog from contracting anaplasmosis is to control the tick population in your yard and prevent the parasites from hopping on your pet.
Here are some preventative measures.
Keep ticks off your pet: Your veterinarian can recommend which topical, oral, or wearable products will help repel ticks before they infect your dog. If you choose a tick collar, which keeps ticks off your dog’s head and neck, make sure it touches the skin but is still loose enough to accommodate two fingers under the collar.
Wash ticks away: Medicated shampoos can kill ticks on contact. Make sure to bathe your pet in tick shampoo every two weeks because shampoos don’t last as long as spot-on or oral medications.
Dip ticks: Dips, which you sponge onto dogs, are concentrated chemicals that kill ticks. These chemicals are strong and you shouldn’t use them on puppies or pregnant or nursing dogs.
Pick ticks: Carefully inspect your dog when returning from outdoor play. Check for ticks between toes, inside ears, between legs, and deep inside coats. Remove ticks you find, carefully plucking off their entire body.
Treat your yard: Trim bushes and trees, and keep lawns mowed to reduce places where ticks can live and breed. If ticks still abound, coat your yard with anti-tick sprays and granular treatments. Make sure you read labels and apply these chemicals carefully because they can be harmful to humans, animals, and fish.