Harford County: What is Ehrlichiosis in Dogs?

mt. carmel animal hospital Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease that develops in dogs after an infected tick has bitten them.

What is Ehrlichiosis? It’s a bacterial illness that dogs contract when bitten by a tick that is infected with the Ehrlichia organism. The brown dog tick usually carries it, which is commonly found in Maryland and Pennsylvania. For more information regarding this bacterial illness, Mt. Carmel Animal Hospital will explain in detail below.


Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease that develops in dogs after an infected tick has bitten them. Although the brown dog tick is the main carrier of the disease, other ticks have been known to transmit the disease to dogs. The brown dog tick is found throughout the entire United States, so all dogs are at risk of contracting the disease.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of ehrlichiosis may be divided into three stages:

  • Acute (early disease) – Infected dogs might have a fever, respiratory distress, weight loss, bleeding disorders, and neurological disturbances.
  • Sub-clinical (no outward signs of disease) – This stage follows the acute phase. The infection is still present, but the dog is not showing any signs. This stage can be quite dangerous as the disease goes undetected and can progress into the last stage.
  • Clinical or chronic (long-standing infection) – This happens when the dog’s immune system cannot remove the organism. Unfortunately, the dog will likely develop various problems, such as eye issues, anemia, neurological conditions, or bleeding episodes.


The most commonly used diagnostic testing only checks for the most prevalent species, E.canis. Therefore, disease-infected dogs might test negative during the early stages. If your dog tests negative on preliminary testing, but your veterinarian is still concerned about the possibility of infection, they will send out specialized testing such as PCR to test for the presence of multiple species. In addition, baseline blood exams, including a complete blood cell count and chemistry, must also be done to determine if your dog is clinically affected by the infection.

Treatment of Ehrlichiosis

Typically, a long treatment course of generally four weeks is sufficient for Ehrlichiosis. Certain antibiotics like doxycycline are the treatment choice since it’s easily accessible and well tolerated. However, your vet will discuss treatment options with you, depending on the clinical state of the patient and blood parameters. In contrast, dogs in which the disease has progressed might require more aggressive treatment. This can involve hospitalization for IV fluids and antibiotics and even a blood transfusion.


While eliminating ticks from your pet’s environment would be ideal, we realize that is not very practical. Using a quality tick and flea preventive like Bravecto® is the most effective way to prevent diseases transmitted by ticks.  This tasty chew provides long-lasting protection from fleas and ticks for 12 weeks. By quickly killing any ticks that attach to your pet, you are minimizing the risk of disease transmission.


Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!

This entry was posted on Friday, November 3rd, 2023 at 9:45 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.