Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What is Ehrlichiosis?

It's no fun to learn about tick related diseases by getting one. Both Jenn and I can say that now. So, I'm here to help you learn all about Ehrlichiosis, so you can recognize the signs and symptoms in yourself or your puppy.

Ehrlichiosis is a tick borne disease caused by Ehrlichia bacteria. There are many species of Ehrlichia, two affecting humans, and the most common for dogs is Ehrlichia canis. It looks like this:
Dogs can get Ehrlichiosis from the brown dog tick. The bacteria enter from the tick's mouth into the dog's blood stream and attack white blood cells and the immune system.

There are three stages of the disease:

1. Acute-this happens within a few weeks of a bite and symptoms can include a fever, joint pain/stiffness, fatigue, loss of appetite. As the bacteria reproduce inside white blood cells, they spread to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and bone marrow

2. Subclinical-this lasts for years with no symptoms other than anemia

3. Chronic-this stage is the most severe with a range of symptoms including neurological symptoms, kidney disease, eye inflammation, bleeding gums, swollen legs and a range of other symptoms that can be mistaken for other conditions

In humans, symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches. How many people have those things, and never think it might be a tick related illness?

Let's talk about diagnosing Ehrlichiosis. So how do you know if you've got a tick related illness? Well, if you are lucky enough to be a dog, you can get the SNAP 4DX/heartworm test. This is a simple, in-house blood test that can be done in minutes in any veterinarian's office. The SNAP looks like this:There is a window on the test that indicates exposure to tick diseases or heartworms. If you have exposure, the dots in the window show up. Depending on where to dot appears, that determines if the exposure is Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplamosis, or Heartworms. Once the vet has information on exposure, they can do further blood testing to get information about what stage the disease might be in to determine treatment.

If you are not lucky enough to be a dog, you need a doctor that is tick disease literate and will do comprehensive testing. Jenn says that patients need to be advocates for themselves and if your doctor won't listen, find one that will. Human testing is controversial, as many people with diseases like Lyme sometimes don't test positive because their state (really the insurance companies) only tests for certain strains of the Borrelia bacteria. If you were infected in another state or by a different strain of the bacteria, you can have Lyme and test negative. Why can't human testing be as easy as dog testing? Good question.

Luckily, treatment for dogs and humans is usually straighforward depending on the stage of the disease: an antibiotic called doxycycline that is taken twice a day for six weeks or more. We'll see how my treatment goes over the next few weeks.


Niamh said...

Glad to hear that you are getting the treatment that you need. Ticks are evil.

Your friends,
Niamh & Ambrose

Ayla said...

What a bummer! But I'm glad Jenn found out what you had and that you are getting treated.

Sandi feels so much better after her treatment for lyme symptoms. Niamh is right-ticks are evil.

Hope you feel better soon.
Your friend, Ayla