Isotope is a 3 year old neutered male dog who presented to REACH for neck pain, dehydration, and generalized weakness. His owner expressed concern of Isotope being constipated with less water consumption. Upon initial examination Isotope exhibited normal heart and lung patterns and appeared quite stable. However, he was slightly sensitive in his abdomen and arched his back periodically. He had a fever and expressed no interest in food. Whatever was making Isotope so sick was puzzling. To find out what was causing his illness would require numerous diagnostic tests. Any treatment given would be based upon the tests results as well as what Isotope presented symptomatically.
Isotope’s bloodwork was, for the most part, within normal limits except that his blood panel showed a high globulin level which may be indicative of some sort of infection. Yet, he didn’t exhibit a high white cell count (WBC), something also typically seen with infection. X-rays showed an enlarged spleen but normal in appearance. While he was hospitalized his fever spiked to 105 degrees and fluctuated throughout his stay while on IV fluids. In addition, Isotope started to exhibit a stiff gait in his rear legs when he was walked outside. Upon further examination it was revealed that he was developing joint effusion (fluid in the joints) in his legs.
All these symptoms Isotope was exhibiting were starting to show a pattern; that pattern appeared classic of some sort of tick borne disease or auto-immune problem. Therefore Isotope was immediately put on Doxycycline, a drug that is commonly effective in both auto-immune disorders as well as tick borne disorders. This way if Isotope was suffering from either, an effective treatment could be started while not posing any contraindications to the other and no time wasted. Tick borne and autoimmune diseases can appear very similar since both tend to result in common symptoms and conditions. To rule out auto-immune disease an auto-agglutination test was performed. Fortunately the test came back negative, meaning this was not an auto-immune problem. A tick panel was performed by the lab and the result came back with a positive titer for Ehrlichia canis, a multi-systemic tick borne bacterial infection that can affect dogs of all ages. (The disease also affects humans; yet humans can only get the disease from ticks as it is not transferred from dogs to humans.)
Symptoms of Ehrlichia may include fever, weakness, lethargy, muscle/joint pain, anemia, platelet loss, joint effusion, and splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen). Many of these symptoms were the same as what Isotope presented with. The appropriate treatment is supportive care with IV fluids for dehydration and fever as well as any treatment for additional problems associated with the disease. Doxycycline is the preferred antibiotic for clearing the pathogen; Isotope received Doxycycline while at REACH and was discharged with it to finish. With this treatment Isotope began to improve and his owner reported that he slowly became himself again.