Discovering a tick on your canine can be deeply concerning for multiple reasons. Initially, it can be unsettling, particularly if the tick has feasted for an extended period and looks swollen, resembling a blood-filled grape. Beyond the immediate discomfort, ticks are vectors for numerous ailments that can afflict both dogs and humans. While Lyme disease is widely recognized, anaplasmosis remains an under-the-radar but equally crucial tick-transmitted illness that can impact your furry friend and you.
What is Anaplasmosis in Dogs?
Anaplasmosis is a bacterial illness in dogs that manifests in two distinct ways:
- Anaplasma phagocytophilium targets white blood cells (this variant also affects humans).
- Anaplasma platys attacks a dog's platelets, which are essential for blood coagulation.
The presence of Anaplasma is widespread across various parts of the US and Canada, closely related to the habitat of the tick species responsible for transmitting the ailment. The zones most affected by canine anaplasmosis include the northeastern regions, the Gulf Coast, California, the upper Midwest, the southwest, and mid-Atlantic territories.
Per the insights from the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), the spread of anaplasmosis is anticipated to align with the increasing territory of the deer tick in 2022. Areas such as the Northeast and the upper Midwest are expected to report the highest number of cases. Additionally, CAPC forecasts many anaplasma detections in parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Texas.
Cause Of Anaplasmosis in Dogs
The brown dog tick transmits Anaplasma platys, while the deer and western black-legged tick carry Anaplasma phagocytophilium. Since both the deer tick and the western black-legged tick can carry multiple pathogens, dogs might get infected with several tick-borne ailments simultaneously, including ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease. However, there's no proof that dogs can directly spread the Anaplasma bacteria to humans.
Anaplasmosis is a global phenomenon affecting a broad range of mammals, encompassing dogs, cats, and humans. It's believed that rodents are the primary hosts for A. phagocytophilum, whereas dogs are speculated to be the leading carriers for A. platys. Regardless, in both scenarios, ticks are pivotal in transmitting the disease from mammals.
Symptoms of Anaplasmosis In Dogs
Typically, symptoms manifest between one to two weeks following the initial tick bite and subsequent transmission. Since the primary anaplasmosis-causing organisms target different cell types, symptoms differ based on the specific infecting organism.
The A. phagocytophilium variant is the prevalent form of anaplasmosis. Its symptoms tend to be general and indistinct, making its identification challenging due to the absence of any definitive indication of the disease. In humans, frequent symptoms encompass fever, headaches, chills, and muscle soreness. While we can infer how our pets might feel, our understanding of Anaplasmosis symptoms in dogs is confined to observable signs, which comprise:
- Limb discomfort and joint pain
- Reduced appetite
- Elevated body temperature
- Less frequently observed: respiratory issues, convulsions, regurgitation, and diarrhea
On the other hand, A. platys impacts the platelets, influencing blood coagulation. Consequently, symptoms of this variant are linked to the body's compromised clotting capabilities, leading to manifestations like bruises, reddish patches on the gums and abdomen, and nasal bleeding.
Diagnoses Of Anaplasmosis In Dogs
The first step your vet will take is to gather a comprehensive health history of your dog and conduct a thorough physical check-up. Depending on their clinical assessment of potential anaplasmosis, your vet might recommend a series of tests. Dogs exposed to ticks, reside where the disease is prevalent, and show corresponding symptoms are deemed at higher risk.
Detailed blood analysis is typically the initial approach to inspect the blood cells and platelets. Although the pathogen can sometimes be spotted under a microscope, laboratories often employ more precise testing methods. These advanced tests encompass ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), IFA (indirect fluorescent antibody), and PCR (polymerase chain reaction).
Treatment Of Anaplasmosis In Dogs
The antibiotic doxycycline is an effective treatment for anaplasmosis. Initiating the treatment early in the disease's progression often results in a more favorable outcome. While many dogs show signs of improvement within the initial days of treatment, a typical course lasts between 14 to 30 days.
It's crucial to ensure your dog completes the entire antibiotic regimen, even if they seem to be getting better. Dogs that receive a complete treatment generally have a promising long-term outlook. It remains uncertain if some dogs could be continuous carriers without manifesting visible symptoms. Certain dogs might still test positive for anaplasmosis post-treatment despite seeming perfectly healthy.
Prevention Of Anaplasmosis In Dogs
Prioritizing strict tick prevention is paramount. While "natural" methods for tick prevention often underperform, especially in tick-prone regions, numerous effective topical treatments, oral medicines, and tick collars are tailored to safeguard your dog. It's essential to seek your veterinarian's advice to find the most suitable option.
Make it a routine to inspect your dog for ticks, focusing on areas like between the toes, under the collar, behind the ears, and within the armpits. Gently comb through your dog's coat using your fingers to detect irregularities. Ticks can range in size from a tiny dot to as big as a grape. Although they usually appear dark brown or black, their color shifts to grey after being attached and fed for a while. Use tweezers or specialized tick removal tools to grip the tick close to the skin. Ensure its disposal either by immersing it in alcohol or flushing it.
Giving doxycycline as a preventive measure post-tick bite isn't a standard procedure in veterinary care. Antibiotic intervention is typically set aside for dogs that exhibit symptoms and test positive for the anaplasma bacteria. However, many labs offer testing for ticks to ascertain if they harbor diseases like anaplasma or Lyme. If you've extracted a tick, consider sending it for testing to determine potential risks.
Even though anaplasmosis often remains overshadowed by other tick-transmitted diseases like Lyme or ehrlichiosis, it's an increasingly diagnosed ailment in dogs across the US. It's pivotal to recognize that dogs diagnosed with one tick-borne disease might also harbor others due to the overlapping tick carriers.
The best defense is robust tick prevention, but it's reassuring to know that an effective treatment is at hand if needed. If you suspect tick-borne disease exposure in your pet, notify your veterinarian to ensure timely care.