Anaplasmosis – The Tick-Borne Disease Flying Under the Radar

Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne disease seen in both dogs and cats, but more commonly dogs.  It is caused by the bacteria, Anaplasmosis phagocytophilum and Anaplasmosis platys, which are transmitted by the deer tick.  This disease is endemic in this region.  There is a good possibility that your dog has been exposed to this disease if it gets ticks.  We also see a fair amount of anaplasmosis dogs positive for lyme disease as well, since they are carried by the same type of tick.

 Anaplasmosis is not commonly heard of or known by people like lyme disease, but it is just as important and problematic.  It can pose a serious threat to your dog’s health.  The most common clinical signs seen are arthritis-like stiffness with painful joints, high fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Infrequently, bruising, swollen lymph nodes, and neurological signs may be seen.  Anaplasmosis can also lead to life-threatening low platelet levels.  Platelets are involved in clotting our blood.  If they are severely low, internal bleeding that you cannot see and spontaneous bleeding from orifices can occur.

 There are several tests that we can run in order to diagnose this disease.  The most common is the 4Dx snap test that we perform in-house with just a few drops of blood.  It takes 10 minutes to run and is very specific and sensitive, meaning that if your dog is positive, then your dog has been exposed to the organism.  However, to confirm that your dog is actively suffering from the disease, we additionally run a complete blood count (CBC), among other tests.  The great thing about our in-house test is that it also checks for three other diseases at the same time, which includes Heartworm disease, Lyme disease, and erhlichiosis (another tick-borne disease).  If your dog is actively suffering from anaplasmosis, the treatment of choice is an antibiotic, doxycycline, for at least one month.  Your dog may also have to receive other treatment depending on the severity and clinical signs present.

 The best thing you can do to prevent your pet from contracting anaplasmosis or other tick-borne diseases is to prevent ticks from biting your dog.  The most common time of year for ticks to be out and transmitting this disease is during both spring (May-June) and early winter (Oct-Nov).  This is why we recommend your pet to be on a tick preventative all yearlong.  The most effective tick preventatives are the ones that repel the tick.  We recommend, Nexgard, Advantix.  Other tick preventatives, such as Revolution and Frontline need the tick to actually bite first before killing it, which still makes your pet susceptible to contracting a tick-borne disease.

 In our clinic, we most commonly diagnose dogs with this disease when we perform our 4Dx snap test for heartworm disease, which we strongly recommend be done at least every two years even if on the heartworm preventative consistently once monthly all yearlong.  Since this test also checks for the tick-borne diseases, we see most of our positives during this time, before the dog becomes clinical.  If your dog is exposed to ticks often, even if on a tick preventative, we would recommend potentially performing this 4Dx test annually.  Prevention and early diagnosis is key!  And don’t forget to protect yourself as well.  These tick-borne diseases are also seen in humans.


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