What is Anaplasmosis?

Like Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis is a bacterial disease spread through the bite of the black-legged deer tick.  The disease is transmitted while the tick is attached and feeding.  It can affect dog, cats and humans.

Clinical signs are seen approximately 2 weeks after the tick bite and unfortunately, are very vague.  They include lethargy, inappetence and fever.  Many affected humans think they have the flu as the clinical signs disappear in a few days without treatment.  Surprisingly, although more than 80% of dogs will experience a drop in the clotting cells (platelets) fewer than 10% show bleeding (nosebleeds, bruising) as a clinical sign. Possibly this is because the platelet numbers drop so slowly their body has time to adapt.

Once initially diagnosed further testing is done to evaluate the dog’s response to the disease. A complete blood count is done to count the number of platelets.  Biochemistry is done to evaluate the effect on the liver and kidneys.  And a first-morning urine sample is evaluated for the presence of protein indicating kidney disease.

Luckily most dogs respond very well to treatment with an antibiotic and a pain medication if needed.

In recent years there has been an explosion of the local tick population.  We are now seeing them almost all year as they are active any time the temperature is above 4 degrees Celsius. They are most commonly found in areas of heavy brush and long grass especially if there are deer close by. This year is the first time we have diagnosed Anaplasmosis in our local population, but as experts think 4% of ticks carry this bacteria, we will probably be seeing more as the season progresses.  Talk to your veterinarian about the different products available to protect your dogs from ticks.  And don’t forget that you are also at risk and take proper precautions.

Written by Jennifer Merry BSc (Agr), DVM