Traveling Dog Lady: Blogging A to Z Challenge, Day 1: A is for Anaplasmosis

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Blogging A to Z Challenge, Day 1: A is for Anaplasmosis

I am not a veterinarian, medical professional, canine or feline professional or specialist.  I have owned and parented nine dogs and more than 40 cats in my lifetime. I write this blog based on my own experiences as a pet owner/pet parent.  Please consult a professional if you need help with a canine or feline medical or behavior problem.  Thank you.  

Our vet screens for tick-borne diseases annually, and vaccinates against Lyme disease, for which my dogs Hobie and Hector, both tested positive in the distant past. Many pet owners in Massachusetts opt to vaccinate for Lyme. The tick population here is overwhelming. Especially on Cape Cod, in spring, where we spend our weekends and vacations.

Last month, during his routine annual physical, Charlie Brown tested positive for a different tick-borne infection, anaplasmosis. He just completed a round of antibiotics to treat the infection. I had heard the name anaplasmosis before, but I didn't know anything about it at all. In fact, all I kept thinking of was toxoplasmosis, that thing that grows in litter boxes that gives pregnant women a pass in cleaning cat boxes for nine months.

Anaplasmosis is a vector-borne disease sometimes known as "dog fever" or "dog tick fever", and is prevalent in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States.  The symptoms are very similar to arthritis and "dog flu":  joint pain, stiffness, high fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and neurological signs including seizures.  (Also mentioned is neck pain, but I have to wonder how would we know when our dog is having neck pain!?)  The infection can be very serious, and equally difficult to diagnose.  But easy to treat.  Reading that list of symptoms, I have to wonder if Hobie contracted anaplasmosis last summer --  he was hospitalized for three days with all of those same symptoms. Of course, he was tested for everything (and I mean everything!), and anaplasmosis did not come back positive.  But, he was treated with mega-doses of antibiotics, so perhaps it cleared up really quickly and was therefore not successfully detected.  Like I said, anaplasmosis can be difficult to diagnose.

Charlie showed absolutely no symptoms whatsoever; he simply tested positive on a routine blood test, and so we treated the infection.  According to several articles I found online, treatment is remarkably successful with noticeable improvements in as few as one-to-four days.

As much as we are diligent in applying protective treatments, our dogs have nevertheless contracted vector-borne diseases on several occasions.  The prevalence of ticks here, especially on Cape Cod, is staggering.  I find ticks on myself constantly (gross!!!), and have been tested for Lyme several times myself (always negative).  Most of the time, when I find a tick on myself, I feel it crawling (gross!!) before it starts to bite or take hold.  I've never had to remove one that is biting.  I'm an absolute freak about checking myself, and have even felt ticks crawling on me in my sleep!  But the dogs are another story.  The disease-carrying ticks are tiny (see this photo) and even on a short-haired dog, they can easily disguise themselves until it is too late.

To make matters worse, Charlie will run away from me, and/or bite and growl if I approach him with the intention of removing a tick.  I still do it, but it's not easy.

On a humorous side note:  when we first started going to Cape Cod, where ticks are disgustingly overwhelming in spring and fall, Hobie was about seven years old.  He would step out of the car upon our arrival and 400 ticks would jump on him!  Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but, because he is light-colored I was able to see them.  I would pull all the ticks off (they were not biting him, just sitting on him).  We would go on our walk.  As he would walk along, ticks would continue to jump onto him.  I could spot them immediately.  I would "pull over" and take the ticks off of him as soon as they alighted.  After a while, I inadvertently "trained" Hobie to pull ticks off himself.  If I asked him to heel and stop, he would immediately start checking his own legs.  If he found a tick, he would pull it off with his teeth -- and then I'd have to shove my hand in his mouth and grab the tick out of there!  I taught him, unintentionally, so well, that he now always checks himself for ticks and pulls them off with his teeth!  I have to be diligent with Hobie in a whole different way from Charlie -- I have to get to the ticks before Hobie does!

This year, we will be even MORE diligent (if that is at all possible) about tick preventative medications.  Not that I want to give more vaccines (that's a whole other topic) but there is no vaccine available for canine anaplasmosis as there is for Lyme disease.  There is an anaplasmosis vaccine for cattle.  My dogs all get the Lyme vaccine annually.

For more information about anaplasmosis, check out these websites:

http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/canine-anaplasmosis

http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/anaplasmosis-in-dogs/6962

http://blog.timesunion.com/petsandvets/689/anaplasmosis-%E2%80%93-another-tick-borne-disease-affects-dogs/

http://www.wagsandwhiskers.com/blog/169-canine-anaplasmosis



15 comments:

  1. Thank you for a really informative post - really great to connect on the AtoZ
    http://aimingforapublishingdeal.blogspot.co.uk/
    Twitter: WriterBizWoman

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    1. You're welcome! Glad you liked it :) Come back tomorrow for "B" !

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  2. I knew ticks were bad news, but I had no idea about the details! Thank you for sharing and Happy AtoZ!
    -Beagles and Bargains

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    1. Wow, I am glad this info was so helpful... I didn't know about the other diseases other than Lyme, so it's truly been an education, to say the least.

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  3. This post has very important information, thank you! My dogs tried to pull ticks off themselves last summer and I didn't notice so they ended up with ticks latched on to their lips! Yuck!!! In my defense we were camping during our cross-country trek and I used to be oblivious to ticks because we don't have many here in Cascadia. But after our trip, I leaned about diligent tick seeking and removal as well as all the tick borne diseases, Anaplasmosis included. I am super excited about our upcoming road trip to Phoenix except for camping once again during high tick season in a tick infested land... But I won't stay home and let the ticks win! :)

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    1. Me either! Aren't they funny when they try to pull the ticks off themselves?! LOL!! They're so smart!

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  4. I thought of toxoplasmosis when I read the name, as well... I have had one of our CATS get a tick, but not the dog. I am going to have to read up and see if that is something prevalent on the West Coast...

    Cat

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    1. Ah, to have ONE tick. We have hundreds....thousands, yuck.

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  5. Wow, I can't believe how bad ticks are there; I've never had one on me before but I've pulled a couple off the dogs--glad Charlie's going to be ok!

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    1. Thank you, yes, they are quite awful here. He is going to be a.o.k.!

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  6. I like the A-Z Challenge you are doing for the health of dogs. You'll have an encyclopedia full of information when you are done. I'm glad I found your page.

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    1. Oh gosh, thank you SO much for your kind words!!

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  7. Great post! This is important information.
    I am a vet asst. for spay/neuter clinics in the Pacific Northwest, and I work in rescue, also. I currently have 8 cats and one dog. I will be following your blog with great interest :)

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  8. Wow, thank you for sharing this. Ticks and tick-borne disease is also prevalent in Northern California, though not nearly as much as in the northeast. But after finding a tick in my house recently - that I'm sure hung around on my jacket or pants - I've been doing my research and finding all the ways to keep them away from us. Kayo has probably had ticks but I didn't have the awareness to check for them. We just switched flea medication to one that has tick preventative since that's more likely than heartworm. But it's a lot for me to manage and think about - I can't even imagine being in an area where dozens can latch on quickly. I did discover a great post at primallyinspired.com about rose geranium as a powerful repellant. I've started using it on all the dogs I take out for pack walks whenever we go to areas where ticks might be present. Have you tried that?

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    1. Hi BoingyDog! No, I have not heard of rose geranium... I'm going to study that right away. The weather is getting warmer, it's only a matter of days now before we start seeing insects. Thanks for the tip!

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