Canine Ehrlichiosis

Canine ehrlichiosis is a tick transmitted disease caused by Ehrlichia canis, a rickettsial organism. The ticks that transmit ehrlichia can also transmit Babesia canis, the intra cellular protozoan that causes biliary in dogs.

We thus have the unhappy possibility that a dog can be infected with both these diseases at the same time - a not uncommon occurence, although this will depend on your geographic location.

Canine ehrlichiosis is a particularly nasty disease as it causes a drastic decline in the blood platelet count (blood platelets are responsible for blood clotting) and dogs can literally bleed to death. It also knocks the white cell count, which means that infected dogs become more susceptible to a wide range of secondary bacterial diseases which would not normally cause any great challenge but can cause death due to a compromised immune system

Clinical Symptoms

Ehrlichia has an acute phase where the dog will run a temperature, go off it's food, have enlarged lymphnodes and might have mild bleeding, especially noticeable on the gums. This phase of the disease then gives way to a chronic phase during which the dog appears normal but in fact the number of platelets and white cells in the blood circulation continue to drop.

This gives rise to the third and fatal stage of the disease where either internal haemorrhaging, heavy secondary bacterial infection or both lead to death.


As Canine Ehrlichiosis is a tick transmitted disease, the one obvious method of reducing the chances of infection is to have a good tick prevention program in place.

The second item is that if you live in an area where tick borne diseases are known to occur, make sure that you (a) know what the most common symptoms of these diseases are and (b) be very aware of any changes in your dog's normal behaviour.

Lastly, canine ehrlichiosis and other similar tick borne diseases can become a nightmare to treat as so many of the body's systems can be adversely affected, not necessarily directly by the parasite itself, but by side effects of the infection. It is thus vital that these animals get treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.