What You Need To Know About Anaplasmosis In Dogs

anaplasmosis in dogs

Many dog owners worry about tick bites that can lead to diseases like anaplasmosis in dogs. It’s difficult to keep your dog tick-free but learning more about this disease can help with early diagnosis and treatment … and even prevention. 

What Is Anaplasmosis In Dogs?

Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne disease that affects dogs, animals and humans. It’s caused by the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacteria that infected ticks can transmit. This disease affects the white blood cells and can lead to infections that affect organs and systems within your dog's body. 

How Serious Is Anaplasmosis In Dogs?

Anaplasmosis can range from mild to severe depending on the dog's overall health, age and the extent of the infection. 

Dogs that test positive for anaplasmosis can be asymptomatic, meaning they don't show any symptoms of the disease. The infection may present in the body, but the immune system may control the infection and prevent the disease from developing. That means treatment is likely not needed. But it’s important you continue to support your dog’s immune system.

Some dogs might have mild symptoms that resolve with treatment, while others might have severe complications that can be life-threatening.  

 Anaplasmosis can lead to:

  • Joint issues and lameness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Blood clotting problems and bleeding disorders
  • Kidney and liver problems

Effects Of Severe Anaplasmosis In Dogs

Dogs with severe cases of anaplasmosis can develop kidney failure, respiratory distress and bleeding disorders. When the immune response is triggered by the infection, it can overreact and cause additional health issues in various organs and throughout the body. 

Severe cases can result in:

  • Neurological issues including seizures and tremors
  • Long-term joint issues
  • Death from organ infections

Tick Borne Diseases In Dogs

Anaplasmosis is one of several tick-borne diseases that include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, each caused by different types of bacteria. These diseases are transmitted through tick bites and can present overlapping and similar symptoms. Maintaining a strong immune system and avoiding ticks bites and tick infested areas are the best means of prevention.

RELATED: Read more about tick borne diseases in dogs … 

How Do Dogs Get Anaplasmosis?

Dogs contract anaplasmosis when they are bitten by ticks that are carriers of the Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacteria. Ticks are infected by feeding on other infected animals, typically small mammals like rodents and deer. When a dog is bitten by an infected tick, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream, then invade the white blood cells to spread the infection through the body.

Anaplasmosis Symptoms In Dogs

Anaplasmosis symptoms can appear within 1 or 2 weeks of a bite by an infected tick. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Joint pain and lameness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Reluctance to move
  • Difficulty getting up

In some cases, anaplasmosis can lead to other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and even neurological issues. It is crucial for dog owners to seek medical help and diagnosis if they notice any of these symptoms.  

How To Diagnose Anaplasmosis In Dogs

The symptoms of anaplasmosis can resemble those of other diseases so they must be ruled out through a definitive diagnosis, and to ensure proper treatment. Diagnosing anaplasmosis in dogs involves clinical evaluation, lab tests and a thorough medical history. 

Here's what’s used to diagnose anaplasmosis in dogs:

  • Medical history
  • Tick exposure
  • Clinical examination
  • Symptom assessment
  • Blood tests  
  • Complete blood count and blood chemistry
  • Joint fluid analysis
  • X-rays or ultrasound to evaluate joint involvement

Clinical signs and symptoms can lead you to suspect anaplasmosis, but lab tests are crucial for confirming the diagnosis. An early and accurate diagnosis is essential so treatment can begin and prevent the disease from progressing to a severe stage.

Prognosis For Anaplasmosis In Dogs

Prognosis for dogs with anaplasmosis depends on various factors including the dog's overall health, the timeliness of diagnosis and treatment, and the severity of the infection. Early detection and treatment are crucial to minimize the potential for infection to develop into a severe case of anaplasmosis.

Long Term Effects Of Anaplasmosis In Dogs 

Even in cases where anaplasmosis is treated successfully, there can be long-term effects on a dog's health. Some dogs may continue to experience joint pain and lameness that affect their mobility and overall quality of life. When the immune response is triggered by the infection, it can cause chronic inflammation and lead to ongoing health issues. 

Is Anaplasmosis Curable In Dogs?

Yes, anaplasmosis is curable in dogs with appropriate and timely treatment. 

How To Treat Anaplasmosis In Dogs

The conventional treatment for anaplasmosis in dogs involves the use of antibiotics, usually doxycycline, which targets the anaplasma bacteria. In cases of uncomplicated anaplasmosis, dogs respond well to antibiotic treatment, so symptoms can improve within a few days.

Note that antibiotics not only target the anaplasma bacteria, but beneficial bacteria in the dog’s entire body including the microbiome. When you use antibiotics, your dog’s overall health needs to be supported with a fresh, whole food diet, appropriate nutritional supplements and probiotics that support gut health.

RELATED: Read more about doxycycline for dogs … 

Natural Treatment For Anaplasmosis In Dogs

There are natural remedies that can support a dog's overall wellbeing during and after treatment. 

Natural Support For Dogs With Anaplasmosis

Antibiotics are useful for serious illnesses and may be appropriate for some cases of anaplasmosis. However, there are natural remedies that can support your dog’s immune system and promote his innate resistance to pathogens. These include oil of oregano, olive leaf, garlic, calendula and goldenseal. 

Other natural treatment methods include:

  • Feeding a balanced and nutritious diet to support overall health and immune system
  • Ensure adequate hydration
  • Provide a low-stress environment

Natural Methods For Tick Prevention

There are several strategies you can use to help reduce the risk of tick bites. 

  • Keep outdoor areas trimmed, as ticks thrive in tall grasses and shrubs. Create a buffer zone between wooded areas and your yard by clearing debris and using wood chips or gravel.
  • Some essential oils can deter ticks including cedarwood, eucalyptus, lavender, and lemon. You can dilute a few drops of these essential oils in water and spray the mixture on your dog's collar, bedding, or around his living area. Don’t use undiluted essential oils. 
  • Regular grooming can help you spot and remove ticks before they have a chance to attach. 
  • Make your own tick repellent spray by diluting essential oils like cedarwood, eucalyptus, or geranium in water, spray on your dog and work into his fur.  Again, do not use undiluted essential oils. 
  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth can help kill ticks by drying them out. Lightly dust your dog's skin with DE, focusing on areas where ticks hide. Be extra careful around eyes, mouth and nose to avoid your dog (or you!) inhaling the dust while applying it.
  • Start a regular routine of checking your dog for ticks after outdoor activities. Pay close attention to areas like ears, armpits, between toes, and around the head and neck.Tip: use a blow dryer on the cold setting to part your dog’s fur and help you spot ticks on the skin.
  • Too much bathing can remove the natural oils from your dog’s skin, but sometimes it can help remove ticks from your dog's coat and skin. Use an organic, dog-safe shampoo and focus on the areas where ticks are likely to hide.

When you understand the symptoms and treatment options for anaplasmosis in dogs, you can provide timely and appropriate care and return your dog to optimum health. 

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