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Ehrlichiosis in Costa Rica

Ehrlichiosis is a tick-borne disease that is prevalent in Costa Rica and other Central American countries. The warm, humid climate along with an environment conducive to reproduction makes Costa Rica a perfect breeding ground to create a healthy population of ticks. 

Ehrlichiosis is transmitted via the bite from the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). The organism responsible for the disease is a rickettsial organism, which is similar to bacteria.

There are three stages of Ehrlichiosis, acute (early disease), sub-clinical (no outward signs of disease) and chronic (long-standing infection). An infected dog may have fever, swollen lymph nodes, respiratory distress, weight loss, bleeding disorders and occasionally neurological disturbances.

Since the sub-clinical phase presents no clinical signs, the disease may go undetected and may place a dog at a higher risk for undergoing surgery. Basic blood work may find the dog has a low platelet count, anemia and/or a bleeding disorder thus hinting that the dog may be infected.

Because dogs seen at the IVTC are presented to us with little or known history, we do everything we can within our capabilities to ensure their safety and well-being during their spay/neuter surgery. We have recently acquired equipment that allows us to perform the minimum diagnostic tests, such as Packed Cell Volume and Total Proteins. Though these are the minimum tests one would perform, we feel that along with a thorough physical exam and our veterinarians’ extensive experience with this disease that we are able to give above standard care for our purposes of helping control animal over-population.