Zoonotic Disease – What is Anaplasmosis?

You hear a lot about Lyme Disease and how to safeguard your pet from tick-borne illnesses, however Anaplasmosis isn’t nearly as talked about but it’s just as serious a threat to your pets’ health. It’s the second most frequently reported tick-borne disease in Wisconsin, and something we see more and more of, especially because it affects both pets and humans.

Anaplasmosis is a disease stemming from the Anaplasma bacteria and comes in two forms—one infects the white blood cells while the other infects platelets. Anaplasmosis that infects the white blood cells is transmitted through Ehrlichia or the bite of an infected deer tick, like Lyme disease. The form that infects platelets is transmitted through the bite of a brown dog tick. Ticks in general are known for carrying diseases, so it’s not uncommon for a dog to be infected with multiple tick-borne illnesses at the same time.

Symptoms of Anaplasmosis usually begin one to two weeks after the initial tick bite and are generally vague, making diagnosis of the disease difficult. They can vary depending on whether the white blood cells or the platelets are affected. If the platelets are infected, this may limit the body’s ability to properly stop bruising and bleeding. Symptoms like nosebleeds or splotches and bruising on the gums are often seen in dogs who are infected.

It’s important to note that, unlike people, a nosebleed is not common or normal in a dog. Nosebleeds may indicate a fever or other serious disorders, so never ignore one when you see it. It requires medical attention from your vet as soon as possible.

Possible signs Anaplasmosis can include:

  • Lameness
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea – even seizures

If the disease goes untreated, it can be serious or even fatal in both people and dogs. Should your pet be diagnosed with Anaplasmosis, we’ll begin treatment with a medication called doxycycline. Just as with any tick-borne disease, the sooner the illness is recognized, diagnosed, and treated, the better the outcome for your pet’s health.

Most dogs are treated with doxycycline for a full 30 days. Prognosis after treatment is very good, which is great news! It is not uncommon for pets to continue to test positive after treatment, even though they appear healthy and back to their old selves.

While there’s proven evidence that humans can get this disease from ticks, there is currently none showing that dogs can directly transmit the Anaplasma bacteria to us. Keeping pets safe has become easier and more convenient than ever, with many topical and oral tick prevention products to protect them. Don’t forget to keep yourself safe, too—use a product to prevent tick bites on people and check yourself often when spending time outdoors, especially with your pet.