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Ticking Off Ticks
Two of the most common tick-borne diseases in dogs are Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis, which are also a common cause of morbidity and mortality in South Asia.
While babesiosis is caused by one of the protozoal parasites Babesia giubsoni or Babesia canis, Ehrichiosis is caused by infection with a rickettsial organism, Ehrichia canis. Both diseases share a common vector, the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus, which thrives in warm, moist environments. It is not unusual for a dog to be infected with both organisms at the same time.
But the biggest challenge in combating tick-borne diseases lies in detecting and correctly assessing the signs. In most cases, the early signs are very subtle and very often mimic those caused by other diseases.
It is an infectious disease of the blood, and progressive (hemolytic) anemia, or the destruction of red blood cells, is the main factor in the development of its symptoms. Also known as ‘Bile Fever’, this disease in dogs has a lot in common with malaria in humans.
The process of transmission of parasites (Babesia canis) occurs 2-3 days after ticks attach to the dog. The parasites migrate from the tick’s salivary glands into the host’s circulatory system, causing tick bite fever. The parasite then enters and destroys the red blood cells.
Clinical signs: Most dogs usually suffer from acute or subacute forms of fever, which can be distinguished by a lethargic or lethargic dog, loss of appetite and temperature. However, when the fever reaches the per-acute (sudden and severe) level, it causes death within hours, as treatment at that stage is of little use.
As the disease progresses, it can affect the spleen, liver, muscles, and circulatory, lymphatic, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems. It also interferes with the reproduction of living supporting cells in the bone marrow, as a result of which the dog’s immune system is significantly reduced. Depending on which system is most severely affected by the Babesia organism, infected dogs show a variety of symptoms such as the destruction of red blood cells, protein in the urine, lack of oxygen in the tissues, free hemoglobin in the urine, laboratory findings indicating jaundice. , reduction in the number of platelets in the blood (which predisposes the dog to prolonged or spontaneous bleeding episodes), abnormalities in the lymphatic system, kidney failure and liver disease.
Treatment and balanced diet: However, treatment should only be done after a positive diagnosis has been made through a blood test. Severely anemic dogs should be given oxygen therapy and whole blood transfusions in addition to specific antibabesial drug therapy. Imodocarb dipropionate at 5 mg/kg body weight by intramuscular injection is the drug that works in such cases. The treatment must be repeated after 14 days. Although the drug is generally well tolerated, there are sometimes side effects, which include transient vomiting, drooling, muscle tremors, and restlessness. If they occur, these signs can be checked. However, judicious use of glucocorticoids along with liver and vitamin supplements helps speed recovery.
And while the treatment is ongoing, it is important to avoid fatty foods and the balanced diet must be supplemented imperatively with a tonic. A follow-up treatment may also be required if the dog does not seem to be responding to the initial treatment.
Canine ehrlichiosis is also an infectious blood disease in dogs caused by a small rickettsial parasite (Ehrlichia Canis), which is injected into the dog’s bloodstream through tick bites. These parasites not only destroy red blood cells, but also suppress the functions of the bone marrow. Furthermore, the severe depression of the immune system caused by the disease opens the door to secondary bacterial infections and other complications.
Clinical signs: In the acute phase of infection, Ehrlichiosis appears like any other viral infection, with a reduction in the cellular elements of the blood as the primary characteristic. Although the organism lives and reproduces in white blood cells (leukocytes), it has a particularly devastating effect on the lymphatic system. And ultimately it affects the respiratory, circulatory and central nervous systems, as well as the kidneys, brain, liver and spleen. When affected, the dog often has a fever, may lose appetite and/or act depressed. The eyes may also begin to have a glassy appearance.
Proper diagnosis: However, the biggest failure has been recognition and testing for the disease. If the dog exhibits any of the above symptoms, it is best to have blood drawn for a routine complete blood count as well as a platelet count. Blood smear testing will also give a clear picture in some cases. A good diagnostic aid are also serological tests such as indirect fluorescent antibodies or the IFA test, which requires the presence of antibodies produced by the dog’s immune system.
Timely treatment: Even veterinarians should be cautioned against using steroids in a dog that may have Ehrlichiosis. Although some chronically infected dogs may need steroid treatment, this should always be administered in conjunction with doxycycline and only as a last resort. In cases where the vet thinks the dog may have more than one disease, then first priority should be given to Ehrlichiosis.
Most cases respond well to treatment with antibiotics of the tetracycline family. Doxycycline is the drug of choice as it has fewer potential side effects. Inoculation as well as injectable antibiotics should not be given to a dog suspected of having Ehrlichial infection, as there have been reports of reactions following this. Another drug, Imizol, has also been shown to be very effective in treating Ehrlichiosis. Due to the high dosage, administration of vitamin B and K supplements is advised, as the dog’s ability to synthesize those vitamins in the large intestine is significantly reduced.
However, since there is no vaccine available against Ehrlichiosis, we must rely on the reduction available against Ehrlichiosis, we must rely on reducing the population of dog ticks. This can only be done by regularly using approved tick control measures that may be recommended by your vet.
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