Tick-borne diseases are a growing threat to canine health as the geographic range of ticks continues to expand. Infection rates in dogs of dangerous tick-transmitted diseases are rising annually. Ehrlichiosis is one of these diseases and is caused by Ehrlichia, a type of bacteria that infects dogs nationwide and is transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick. Here at Big Lick Vet, we are seeing more and more dogs test positive for Ehrlichiosis and have recently restructured our recommendations, which we outline below.
So what happens if your dog tests positive for Ehrlichiosis? The IDEXX 4DX SNAP Test is an antibody specific test. Just because your dog has tested positive for Ehrlichiosis on this test, it does not indicate that your dog actually has the disease. It merely reveals that your dog has developed antibodies for this infection because a tick carrying the disease bit your dog.
Because this disease is associated with kidney dysfunction and a drop in platelets (necessary for blood clotting), we recommend running a Jr. Wellness Panel at the time of a positive SNAP 4DX Test. The Jr. Wellness Panel includes a CBC and will give us Protein levels. We also recommend rechecking a CBC in 30 days so that we can closely monitor platelet levels.
A recent restrospective study of 846, 626 dogs conducted by IDEXX demonstrated that exposure to tick-borne diseases significantly increased the risk of developing kidney disease. Dogs exposed to Ehrlichia were found to have a 300% increased risk of Chronic Kidney Disease, which is why we strongly recommend monitoring kidney values every 6 months. When evaluating kidney function, it’s important to also evaluate urine.
Because Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial infection, your dog can become reinfected again and again and again. Your dog’s immune system can carry antibodies for Ehrlichia for as long as four years. This means that your dog may test positive year after year and without doing tick titers regularly there is no way to know medically whether or not your dog has a new infection or residual antibodies. Unfortunately, tick titers can often be cost-prohibitive and this is why we recommend the Canine Comprehensive Panel every 6 months.
If your dog has tested positive for Ehrlichia, or any other tick-borne disease, we know there are ticks in your environment and strongly recommend strict tick control. We recommend Bravecto, which is a chew given once every three months for flea and tick control, because of it’s fast kill time, ability to reach the extremities like ears and feet (unlike topicals) and it’s inability to wash off like many topicals.