An update on anaplasmosis in dogs


An update on anaplasmosis in dogs

This bacterial disease, caused by two different Anaplasma species, is spreading worldwide in dogs and has zoonotic potential.

Seropositive, clinically healthy dogs

Animals from endemic areas are often exposed to A. phagocytophilum, and 40% or more of dogs in these areas may be seropositive.9 However, since the morbidity is low, it appears that many animals may have antibodies to A. phagocytophilum without having any concurrent evidence of clinical disease. Since persistent infection in clinically healthy dogs has been demonstrated,6,7,15 it is likely that a portion of the seropositive animals are chronically infected carriers of the organism. Experimentally, chronically infected carriers did not have any hematologic abnormalities,7 and, thus far, it appears that seropositive animals with no clinical evidence of disease are hematologically normal. Incidents of chronically infected carriers later developing clinical disease have not been clearly documented.

The cyclic appearance of clinical cases that coincide with tick season indicates that canine anaplasmosis is an acute disease that occurs in dogs a week or two after organism inoculation by ticks.5,12 Because chronic infection has not been directly related to clinical disease and because a therapeutic regimen effective in clearing the organism from an infected animal has not been established, treating clinically healthy, seropositive animals is of questionable benefit. However, a seropositive reaction to A. phagocytophilum in a clinically healthy dog should not be disregarded. At a minimum, implement an aggressive tick-control program designed to minimize exposure to ticks, and, hence, to other tick-borne diseases. It is clear that coinfection with two or more tick-borne agents is common and that dogs coinfected with B. burgdorferi and A. phagocytophilum are nearly two times more likely to develop clinical disease than are dogs infected with either agent alone.9 There is also some concern that chronically infected carriers could be adversely affected by therapeutic agents that compromise the immune system or by a concurrent illness that might alter an animal's immune status. The administration of immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids to infected, asymptomatic dogs resulted in the reappearance of bacteremia, although the animals remained clinically normal.6,7,15


Anaplasma platys (formerly Ehrlichia platys) is the causative agent of infectious cyclic thrombocytopenia in dogs.


4. Two large, dark-blue-staining Anaplasma platys morulae in a circulating platelet from an infected dog. The normal, smaller, pink-staining platelet granules are also observed in the cytoplasm of the infected platelet (Wright's-Giemsa­; 100X).
Anaplasma platys was first reported in the United States in 1978 and has since been recognized to have a worldwide distribution, being reported in many European, Asian, and South American countries.18 This agent is unique—it is the only intracellular infectious agent described in people or animals to specifically infect platelets (Figure 4).

Tick vector and mammalian hosts

The natural mode of disease transmission has not been conclusively determined, but A. platys DNA has been amplified from Rhipicephalus and Dermacentor species ticks.19,20 Therefore, tick transmission is highly suspected. Dogs are by far the most common mammalian host, although rare reports of infections in cats, impalas, and sheep have been documented outside the United States.21,22