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Ticking Off Ticks
The two most prevalent tick-borne diseases in dogs are babesiosis and ehrlichiosis, which are fairly common causes of morbidity and mortality in South Asia.
Babesiosis is caused by the protozoan parasite Babesia or Babesia canis, while ehrlichiosis is caused by infection with the rickettsial organism E. canis. Both diseases share a common vector, the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus, which thrives in warm, moist environments. It is not uncommon for a dog to be infected with both organisms at the same time.
But the greatest challenge in battling tick-borne diseases lies in detecting and accurately assessing symptoms. In most cases, early symptoms are very subtle and often mimic symptoms caused by other diseases.
It is an infectious blood disorder in which progressive (hemolytic) anemia, or destruction of red blood cells, is a major factor in the development of its symptoms. Also known as “biliary fever,” this disease in dogs has a lot in common with malaria in humans.
The process of transmission of the parasite (Babesia canis) occurs 2-3 days after the tick attaches to the dog. The parasite migrates from the tick’s salivary glands to the host’s circulatory system, causing tick-bite fever. The parasite then enters and destroys the red blood cells.
Clinical signs: Most dogs typically have an acute or subacute form of fever, which can be recognized by the dog’s listlessness or lethargy, loss of appetite, and elevated body temperature. However, when a fever reaches hyperacute (sudden and severe), it can lead to death within hours because treatment at that stage has little effect.
As the disease progresses, it may affect the spleen, liver, and muscles as well as the circulatory, lymphatic, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems. It also interferes with the replication of living cells in the bone marrow, severely reducing the dog’s immune system. Depending on the system most affected by the Babesia organism, infected dogs will display symptoms such as destruction of red blood cells, urinary protein, tissue hypoxia, free hemoglobin in the urine, laboratory findings indicative of jaundice, platelets Decreased counts (which predispose dogs to prolonged or spontaneous bleeding episodes), lymphatic system abnormalities, kidney failure, and liver disease.
Treatment and a balanced diet: However, treatment should only be given after a positive diagnosis has been made through a blood test. Severely anemic dogs should be given oxygen therapy and whole blood transfusion in addition to special antibacterial drug therapy. Imodocarb dipropionate at 5 mg/kg body weight intramuscularly is an effective drug in this situation. Treatment must be repeated after 14 days. Although this drug is generally well tolerated, side effects sometimes occur, including transient vomiting, salivation, muscle tremors, and restlessness. If they occur, these signs are manageable. However, judicious use of glucocorticoids and liver and vitamin supplements facilitates rapid recovery.
And during treatment, it is important to avoid fatty foods and a balanced diet must be supplemented with tonics. Follow-up treatments may also be necessary if the dog does not seem to be responding to initial treatment.
Canine ehrlichiosis, also a contagious blood disease of dogs, is caused by the tiny rickettsial parasite (Ehrlichia Canis), which is injected into the dog’s bloodstream through a tick bite. These parasites not only destroy red blood cells, but also suppress bone marrow function. In addition, the severe suppression of the immune system caused by the disease opens the door for secondary bacterial infections and other complications.
Clinical signs: During the acute phase of infection, ehrlichiosis is very similar to any other viral infection and is characterized by a reduction in cellular blood components. Although the organism lives and reproduces in white blood cells (leukocytes), it has a particularly damaging effect on the lymphatic system. It eventually affects the respiratory, circulatory and central nervous systems, as well as the kidneys, brain, liver and spleen. When affected, dogs often develop a fever, may lose their appetite, and/or appear depressed. Even the eyes may begin to develop a glassy appearance.
Correct Diagnosis: The biggest failure, however, is identifying and detecting disease. If a dog exhibits any of the above symptoms, it is most advisable to have blood drawn for a routine complete blood count and platelet count. In some cases, a blood smear test can also give a clear picture. Serological tests, such as indirect fluorescent antibody or IFA tests, which look for the presence of antibodies produced by the dog’s immune system, are also a good diagnostic aid.
Prompt Treatment: Even veterinarians should be warned against using steroids in dogs who may have ehrlichiosis. While some dogs with chronic infections may require treatment with steroids, this should always be used in conjunction with doxycycline and only as a last resort. If the veterinarian thinks the dog may have more than one disorder, ehrlichiosis should be given priority.
Most cases respond well to treatment with tetracycline antibiotics. Doxycycline is the drug of choice because it has fewer potential side effects. Dogs with suspected Ehrlichia infection should not be vaccinated and given antibiotics because of reports of reactions thereafter. Another drug, Imizol, has also been shown to be very effective in treating ehrlichiosis. Due to the high doses, vitamin B and K supplements are recommended, as the dog’s ability to synthesize these vitamins in the large intestine is greatly reduced.
However, since there is no vaccine available against ehrlichiosis, we should rely on reducing the available vaccines against ehrlichiosis and we should rely on reducing tick populations in dogs. This can only be done with regular use of approved tick control measures that your veterinarian may recommend.
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