Ehrlichia in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Ehrlichia is a disease that is passed from ticks to animals through tick bites, and when left untreated this disease can quickly cause a lot of problems. As you can probably imagine, Ehrlichia tends to be the most common in dogs as they are much more likely to explore areas where ticks are present than humans are.

Early symptoms of Ehrlichia in dogs include things like inflamed lymph nodes, fever, lethargy, and stomach upset. However, as the condition progresses the symptoms tend to get much more severe and can cause serious complications to a dog’s kidneys, liver, and eyes.

In this article we will be explaining everything that dog owners should know about Ehrlichia in dogs. This will include what Ehrlichia is, how it is spread, and what the symptoms of this infection are in dogs. In addition to this, we will also be describing how you can prevent your dog from getting ehrlichia as well as how it is treated and diagnosed by a vet. Let’s get into it.

Ehrlichia in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment in buffalo grove, il

What Is Ehrlichiosis?

Ehrlichiosis, or Ehrlichia is a bacterial infection that is passed to animals through tick bites. There are three different stages to an Ehrlichia infection. These three stages include acute Ehrlichiosis, Subclinical Ehrlichiosis, and chronic or clinical Ehrlichiosis. Here we will describe these different stages in closer detail.

Acute Ehrlichia

Acute Ehrlichia occurs just after a dog becomes infected with the disease. The symptoms of Ehrlichia at this stage can range from mild to moderate.

Subclinical Ehrlichia

Subclinical Ehrlichia occurs after the acute phase, and it is often considered to be the most difficult for pet owners to spot. This is because dogs will usually not exhibit any symptoms of Ehrlichia at all during this phase. As you can probably imagine, many pet owners just assume that their dog has gotten over whatever illness that they had before when this phase of Ehrlichia sets in. However, this is sadly not the case.

Chronic Ehrlichia

Chronic Ehrlichia, sometimes also called clinical Ehrlichia, is the final and most severe form of the disease. This phase only occurs when the disease has been left untreated and has been able to progress. This is when the most severe symptoms and complications of Ehrlichia occur. Even though any dog could potentially reach the chronic phase of Ehrlichia, young puppies, elderly dogs, and dogs with a compromised immune system are most at risk of developing clinical Ehrlichia infections.

How Do Dogs Get Ehrlichiosis?

Dogs get Ehrlichiosis by being bitten by an infected tick. Most of the time the ticks carrying Ehrlichia are brown dog ticks. However, other types of ticks could potentially carry the disease as well.

Additionally, in the United States this disease is most often seen in the southern part of the country. This includes both the south western and the south eastern regions. However, it is not impossible for dogs to catch Ehrlichia in other parts of the United States, and Ehrlichia is prevalent in other parts of the world as well.

Ehrlichia in Dogs in buffalo grove, il

Can Humans Get Ehrlichiosis?

Yes, humans can get Ehrlichiosis. However, humans cannot get infected by a dog that has Ehrlichia. Rather, a person would have to be bitten by a tick that is a carrier of the Ehrlichia disease.

Symptoms Of Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

There are many potential symptoms of Ehrlichiosis in dogs. Unfortunately, these symptoms only tend to show up in the acute and clinical stages of the disease, with acute symptoms being much less severe than clinical symptoms. Here are the symptoms of Ehrlichia in dogs that you should look out for.


A fever occurs when a dog has a body temperature that is higher than normal. Fever tends to be a more common sign of acute Ehrlichia. However, dogs with clinical Ehrlichia may get a fever as well.


Lethargy is another symptom that can be present in both the acute and clinical phase of an Ehrlichia infection in dogs. A dog that is lethargic will likely appear to be more tired than usual, and they are also likely to tire more easily after exercise.

Weight Loss And a Reduced Appetite

A reduced appetite can occur in both acute and chronic stages of Ehrlichiosis. Over time this can also lead to weight loss.

Inflamed Lymph Nodes

Enlarged lymph nodes are most commonly seen in the acute stage of Ehrlichiosis, and this occurs as a result of a dog’s immune system trying to fight off the Ehrlichia infection.

Vomiting And Diarrhea

Vomiting and Diarrhea can potentially occur in both the acute and chronic stages of an Ehrlichiosis infection in dogs.


Coughing can sometimes be a sign that a dog is in the acute stage of Ehrlichiosis.

Strange Bruising or Bleeding

Abnormal bruising and bleeding patterns can actually be seen throughout all of the stages of an Ehrlichia infection in dogs. However, this symptom is difficult for many dog owners to notice.

Strange Neurological Symptoms

Strange neurological symptoms like stumbling, trembling, and having difficulty walking can occur in both acute and chronic stages of Ehrlichiosis.

Eye Problems

Eye problems are a possible complication of chronic Ehrlichiosis in dogs. The main concern at this stage is the development of blindness.

Kidney Problems

Severe kidney problems are a serious worry when a dog has developed chronic Ehrlichiosis. It is also one of the reasons why it is important to prevent the disease in your dog whenever you can and get them seen by a vet as soon as possible when you suspect that they are sick.

Abnormal Blood Work

Abnormal blood work usually starts to occur in the subclinical and clinical phases of Ehrlichiosis. This is due to the disease’s effect on the body over time.

How Is Ehrlichiosis in Dogs Diagnosed?

Ehrlichiosis in dogs is usually diagnosed through blood tests and the presence of abnormal blood work. These blood tests will be searching for antibodies for the Ehrlichia disease. Meanwhile, abnormal blood work will also give vets an indication that a dog may have Ehrlichiosis. It is important to mention that these tests may come back as falsely negative very early into the acute phase.

How Is Ehrlichiosis in Dogs Treated?

Most of the time Ehrlichiosis in dogs is successfully treated with antibiotics. Depending on how severe the infection is the treatment plan may last a long time.

Can Ehrlichiosis Be Prevented in Dogs?

Yes, Ehrlichiosis is a preventable disease in dogs. Although there is no Ehrlichia vaccine, the disease can be prevented by giving your dog a tick prevention medication or by placing topical tick prevention on your dog before exploring potentially tick infested areas.

At Buffalo Grove Animal Hospital, we care about your pet and its health. Call us at (847) 394-1128 for any questions regarding ehrlichia and your pet’s wellness.

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About Buffalo Grove Animal Hospital

Buffalo Grove Animal Hospital has been a part of the Buffalo Grove community since 1969. Our veterinarians serve Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, Palatine, and the surrounding areas with the best veterinary medicine year after year. Our commitment to pet health runs deep, and we’ve proven our skill and compassion by becoming an AAHA-accredited Animal Hospital, the highest accreditation veterinary practices can receive.