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Mark Hale, DVM

1661 E. Mt. Gilead Rd.

Bolivar, Missouri  65613





            We are all welcoming the warmer Spring weather.  The green grass and leaves, blooming dogwoods, and chirping birds are great gifts from Mother Nature.  However, Mother Nature also gives us more ticks during these warmer months.  The common brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) is the carrier for a very common disease of dogs in this area, Ehrlichiosis.  In fact, a recent U.S. survey names Missouri as one of the top five states in the number of positive cases of Ehrlichiosis.  Dr. Johnny Hoskins, a leading veterinary speaker and consultant, has been quoted "canine Ehrlichiosis is the second most common infectious disease in the U.S., with the most prevalent being parvovirus disease."

            Ehrlichiosis is caused by a tiny organism that lives inside cells in the blood.  When an infected tick bites a dog, it can transfer the disease.  Early signs of the disease usually occur two to three weeks after the initial tick bite.  These mild signs often go unnoticed and disappear in one to two weeks without treatment.  Ticks may still be present on your dog during this time.  These early signs can include fever, eye and nasal discharge, lameness, weight loss, and swollen lymph nodes.  Some dogs will continue with the chronic form of the disease.

            The veterinarian will usually not see the dog until the chronic phase of Ehrlichiosis sets in.  At this time, the dog owner will begin to notice abnormal signs such as: depression, lameness, chronic weight loss, pale gums, and bleeding from the nose, gums, eyes, or in the skin (such as bruising).  These dogs can quickly die from blood loss, or from heart, lung, or liver failure.  Accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment can often save these dogs.  Blood tests are necessary to diagnose and make a treatment plan.

            There is no vaccine available to prevent this disease, so prevention in the form of tick control is important.  In my practice, Frontline Plus ® is the most widely used product for tick control.  Preventic ® tick collars also work well.  While use of these products cannot totally eliminate infections, they have been shown to greatly reduce the occurrence.  During the peak months for ticks, I use both Frontline Plus ® and Preventic ® on my personal canine companions.

            If you have any questions about whether your dog could have Ehrlichiosis, or about its prevention, please make an appointment to discuss this with Dr. Hale.