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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Advice from An Expert on Ehrlichiosis

I had a chat the other day with Dr. Sara Pizano, the vet who heads Miami-Dade's Animal Services division, about Ehrlichiosis, the potentially fatal tick-borne blood disease that has afflicted my lab mix, Gracie.

Gracie was deathly ill for a week but seems to have bounced back, thanks to heavy-duty antibiotics. Yesterday, I caught her rooting in a trash can, a sure sign she's feeling better, and today she snatched a squeaky toy away from C.C. She's also eating again with gusto. THAT'S a relief, considering a week ago she was too weak to do any of the above.

Anyway, Dr. Pizano stresses that tick control is key to avoiding the disease, noting that not all ticks are infected.

Frontline, the topical preventative, "is the best you can do,'' though it's not foolproof, she said. "Once they've got [the disease], basically there are three ways it progresses: they get sick immediately or become carriers for months and months, then they get sick. It's a delayed response.

"The two cells it attacks are red blood and platelets. You can get a wide variety of signs because it's a blood disease: anemia, swollen joints, bruising, lethargy. The life-threatening part is anemia. We had one dog present with blood tears in vet school.''

One scary thing is that having had it doesn't confer immunity "because it's not a virus.''

It's especially important to treat the yard in warm weather, she said, so while nobody likes having to use pesticides, it's prudent.

So go forth and spray, and check your animals daily for those yucky little brown monsters, pull them off so you get the head, then drown them in alcohol. Good riddance!


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