Canine Monocytic Ehrlichiosis: An Update on Diagnosis and Treatment

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Abstract

Canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME) is a tick-borne disease of worldwide distribution. The major causative agent is Ehrlichia canis, a gram-negative, obligate intracellular, pleomorphic bacterium of the genus Ehrlichia, which infects monocytes, macrophages and lymphocytes, forming intracytoplasmic, membrane-bound bacterial aggregates, called morulae. After an incubation period of 8-20 days, the course of E. canis infection, can be sequentially divided into acute, subclinical and chronic phases, although these phases can hardly be distinguished in the clinical setting. Clinical recovery is the typical outcome of acutely infected dogs, entering the subclinical phase, during which they show no or minimal clinical signs and/or mild hematological abnormalities. Immunocompetent dogs may eliminate the infection during the acute or subclinical phases, but an unpredictable proportion of dogs will eventually develop the chronic phase, characterized by aplastic pancytopenia and high mortality, due to septicemia and/or severe bleeding. This article outlines briefly the pathogenesis of CME due to E. canis, and more thoroughly reviews the recent scientific literature pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of this devastating disease.

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