Q: My dog was recently diagnosed with Lyme and Ehrlichia diseases. He was really slowing down and I thought he was getting old but he is only 6. They did blood tests and said his blood count was very low. He is taking an antibiotic and he looks a lot better and is getting playful. Will the antibiotic get rid of the infections or will he have this for his whole life? Can he get this again? Can I prevent more infections?
A: Ehrlichia and Lyme are two tick-borne diseases. The dog gets the disease when an infected tick bites it. The microscopic organism that was living inside of the tick invades the dog’s body through the mouthparts of the tick and gets into the dog’s bloodstream through the bite wound.
Lyme, Ehrlichia, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Babesia are the most common tick-borne diseases that can infect dogs. They can cause fever, lethargy, lameness, bruising, bleeding, kidney infections, arthritis and death. Some dogs have no symptoms at the time of diagnosis and may never show any symptoms of disease. If left untreated, they may be a reservoir for infection and spread the disease to other animals or humans.
Dogs that are diagnosed with tick-borne infections can be treated with antibiotics or other medications depending on the type of disease. Treatment may not completely rid the body of the bacteria, but it will generally put the disease into remission.
There is a vaccine for Lyme disease that can be given to the dog prior to any contact with ticks or the disease. The other tick-borne diseases do not have vaccines that have been approved in the United States. The best form of prevention is good tick control. Many good monthly tick medications are available to help keep your dog parasite free. See your veterinarian for a recommendation for the best form of tick prevention for your dog.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.