The most common tick-borne diseases in the UAE are ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis Image Credit: Shutterstock

Ticks are small arachnids, living by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. They are very common in the UAE. Many different tick-borne diseases exist. The most common ones encountered in the country are ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, both bacteria infecting the white blood cells or platelets.

Both diseases can go unnoticed for few weeks. If the dog is unable to fight the infection during this time, symptoms will start to appear. Dogs can display a variety of symptoms, including fever, lethargy, poor appetite, loss of weight, abnormal bleeding from various places (nose bleeds are the most common), abnormal bruising, gastric disturbance, eye inflammation, neurological signs, lameness and/or symptoms of kidney disease.

Your veterinarian will start by taking a full history of your dog’s health and performing a physical examination. Pets who have a history of tick exposure, live in an endemic area such as in the UAE, and have the appropriate signs are all considered at risk. An examination of the blood is the first step to evaluate the blood cells and platelets.

While the organism may occasionally be identifiable under the microscope, more accurate tests are performed in the laboratory: ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) performed at the clinic in just 10-15 minutes or IFA (indirect fluorescent antibody) and PCR (polymerase chain reaction), both performed in advances veterinary laboratories.

Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis can be treated with Doxycycline for at least 21 days. If your dog is treated properly, there are good chances of complete recovery.

However, in more severe cases — such as if the dog is anaemic or has kidney disease — additional treatments like intravenous fluids and blood transfusions may also be necessary. In those cases, prognosis in the short term can be reserved and the dogs can suffer from long-term issues such as kidney disease.
Those diseases can be very serious, and dogs that have been infected with ehrlichia once may develop it again.

It's critical to protect your dogs from any tick bites. Many types of flea and tick prevention treatment are currently available in the UAE veterinary clinics: tablets lasting three months, collars lasting up to six months, spot-on to apply on the skin, spray or shampoos. Your vet can suggest the best one for your dog, assessing its overall health and lifestyle.