Bane of Anaplasmosis in pooches

Come summers and pet parents are most worried about ticks in their furry friends. Know more about Anaplasmosis in dogs – a tick borne disease and ways to control it to keep your pet healthy and happy.
-by Dr A. Sangaran and Dr R. Edith


Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne disease caused by the infectious rickettsial organism Anaplasma phagocytophilum. It is transmitted through bites of the black-legged tick. A less common form of anaplasmosis is caused by anaplasmaplatys and is transmitted by the common brown tick. It is not just in India that pets have to deal with this tick menace, but all over the world.

Be cautious of these signs

Infection with the more common form of anaplasmosis, A. phagocytophilum, often causes lameness, joint pain, fever, lethargy, and anorexia (lack of appetite). The symptoms usually last between one to seven days. However, in some cases, the symptoms are minor or none at all.

Some of the less common clinical signs include – vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, and labored breathing. Occasionally, neurological signs such as seizures can also be seen.

Infection with A. platys can cause cyclic thrombocytopenia, a condition in which there is a periodic decrease in platelets (circulating cells that help the blood clotting process). Clinical disease is often mild, but some dogs may develop bruising or bleeding (including nosebleeds), especially during the early stages of infection when platelet counts may be at their lowest.

Dogs with anaplasmosis often have many of the same symptoms as those with Lyme disease, and infection with both agents (co-infection) is common. Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are commonly found in the same geographic location and are transmitted by the same tick species. It is best to consult your vet at the earliest if you notice any of these symptoms to catch the disease early and get proper treatment for your beloved pet.

Distinctive diagnosis and timely treatment – for complete wellness

Several tests to diagnose this tick infection are available. Exposure to Anaplasma can be detected using a special test kit. Other tests, including enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA), and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), can help your veterinarian determine if an active infection is present. These tests are sent to a veterinary laboratory. In addition, the organism can be observed in a blood smear during peak phases of infection.

On confirmation as Anaplsmosis, your vet will decide the course of treatment. It will also depend upon the severity of the infection in your pet. Most infected dogs are treated for two to four weeks. In most cases, symptoms improve rapidly. Your pet will feel better within 24 – 48 hours after the treatment starts. Follow the instructions given by your vet and give the medications timely for proper recovery of your pet.

Canine anaplasmosis is an acute disease that occurs in dogs a week or two after infection through a tick bite. Because chronic infection has not been directly related to clinical disease and a therapeutic regimen effective in clearing the organism from an infected animal has not been established, treating clinically healthy, positive testing animals is of questionable benefit and not generally recommended.

However, a positive test result in healthy pets should not be overlooked. At a minimum, if a pet has a positive result, he should undergo a tick control program to minimize exposure to ticks. There is also some concern that chronically infected carrier dogs could be adversely affected by medications that compromise their immune health, so as a pet parent you need to be extra cautious.

(Dr A. Sangaran, Ph.D., is a Veterinary Parasitologist working as Professor in Madras, Veterinary College, Chennai; and Dr R.Edith, Ph.D. is a Veterinary Parasitologist working as Assistant Professor in Madras Veterinary College, Chennai)