When you live in Pennsylvania, you are probably familiar with Lyme Disease, a common disease that is transmitted by ticks. However, there is a less familiar disease that can be transmitted to our pets. That disease is Anaplasma.
Anaplasma, like Lyme Disease, is a tick borne disease. This means that certain types of ticks can infect our pets with the disease if infected. There are two types of Anaplasma: Anaplasma Phagocytophilum and Anaplasma Platys. A. Phagocytophilum is carried by the deer tick and the western black legged tick,which are the same ticks that carry Lyme Disease. This form of Anaplasma affects the white blood cells, causing loss of appetite, lethargy, lameness, neck pain and possible neurological symptoms. A. platys is carried by the brown dog tick. This form decreases the platelets, which are the cells that clot blood. Symptoms of this form of Anaplasma are nose bleeds and bruising. It can take 1-2 weeks to see symptoms after getting bitten by an infected tick, but some dogs and cats can be infected without showing any signs of illness.
Anaplasma is extremely common in the northeastern United States, and Pennsylvania’s tick population is out of control. In 2016 the Companion Animal Parasite Council named PA as one of the few states where tick borne diseases, especially Anaplasma and Lyme disease, are rising significantly.
Diagnosis is made by a blood test that is run in our office and takes about 10 minutes. This test detects antibodies to the Anaplasma organism that have been made by your dog’s immune system. A positive test indicates that your dog has been exposed to Anaplasma; it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an active infection. Your veterinarian will determine if the infection is active and if treatment is needed. It is highly recommended to test yearly; the test also screens for heartworm disease, Lyme disease, and another tick borne disease called Ehrlichia. Since Anaplasma and Lyme can be carried by the same tick, it is possible to have been exposed to both diseases. Diagnosis is more difficult in cats. There are more sensitive tests that can be done at an outside lab.
If your dog or cat does become infected with Anaplasma, there is good news. The disease is treatable if caught early. Symptoms usually resolve within 48 hours after treatment begins. The treatment is a 30 day course of an antibiotic called Doxycycline.
Since you now know the causes and treatment of Anaplasma, the next question is how can you prevent your pet from contracting the disease. Keeping your pet on year-round tick prevention is the best way to protect your pet. There are many different preventives available. At the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County, we recommend the following:
Bravecto – a chewable tablet for dogs that kills fleas and ticks for up to 12 weeks. The medication in Bravecto is stored in your dog’s tissue right under the skin. When a flea or tick bites your dog, it ingests the medication and dies. This medication can be used in dogs 6 months of age and older.
Frontline Plus – a monthly topical treatment for dogs and cats. This medication is applied to your pet’s skin near the base of the neck. The medication is stored in the oil glands for 30 days and self-distributes to the hair and skin through the hair follicles. Fleas and ticks that come in contact with the hair and skin die – no biting is necessary.
Nexgard – a chewable tablet for dogs that kills fleas and ticks for up to 30 days. This medication works like Bravecto but is safe for puppies as young as 8 weeks.
Vectra 3D – a monthly topical treatment for dogs. This medication kills fleas and ticks through contact with the skin – no biting is necessary.
Checking your pets for ticks is a very important step to remember as well. Check for ticks between toes, under collars, behind ears, and in the armpit area. Check the body by running your hands through your pet’s coat, feeling for bumps. If you find an attached tick, you can remove it by grasping it close to the skin and pulling straight out. There are also “tick twisters,” which are handy tools to remove ticks. Submerge the tick in alcohol or flush it down the toilet.
Ask your veterinarian about keeping your pets safe from these serious diseases.