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Equine Health Resource

Equine Anaplasmosis

Synonyms: Equine Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis, EGE, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia equi

Anaplasmosis is the latest name for the tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. This organism was previously known as Ehrlichia equi, and the disease for years was called Equine Ehrlichiosis.

Anaplasma is transmitted to horses from bites of several tick species (Deer Tick and Western Black Legged Tick). The disease is not transmitted horse to horse.

The disease has been reported mostly in the United States and Europe. It is more common in specific regions of the U.S, particularly the Pacific Northwest and Northern California.

Horses with anaplasmosis are typically depressed and off feed, they have moderate to high persistent fevers, and often have swelling of the legs, belly, and the sheath in male horses. They may have runny, swollen eyes (conjunctivitis) and grayness in the clear part of the eye (cornea). Stallions can have swollen testicles.

A classic sign of anaplasmosis is the presence of small red or purple spots on the whites of eyes, gums and especially on the nasal mucous membranes or vulva of mares. These spots result from vasculitis – inflammation and resulting leakiness of blood vessels, which allows tiny bruises to form. Rarely, affected horses can be weak and wobbly, they may lie down and not be able to rise.

The blood of affected horses shows particular abnormalities, most notably the microscopic presence of the organism within particular white blood cells. The organism may be missed on a slide, and today a more sensitive and specific test is the PCR blood test.

Treatment involves the use of a particular class of antibiotic that kills intracellular organisms, the tetracycline group. In many cases, the diagnosis is presumed even before lab diagnostic results are known.

Prognosis & Relevant Factors

The prognosis for horses affected with this disease is good, provided it is promptly diagnosed and the horse is treated with the appropriate class of antibiotic (tetracyclines).

In areas where the disease is established and known (endemic), veterinarians tend to treat for this disease prior to lab diagnosis, and the course of disease is relatively short. In cases in which it is not diagnosed, the disease can be more serious, last several weeks and result in severe illness and rarely death.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • Is this disease common in our area?
  • How can I reduce the likelihood of infection in my horses?
  • How sure are you that my horse has Anaplasmosis?
  • PREVENTION

    Good facilities management to decrease the population of ticks is recommended, including the use of acaricidal sprays, regular mowing of tall grassy areas. Frequent examination of horses and other animals for ticks, and their prompt removal may help prevent infection. Acaracidal shampoos may also be of value.

    An infected horse is thought to maintain immunity to repeat infection for 1-2 years.

    Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

    RELATED REFERENCES

    Higgins AJ, Snyder JR eds. The Equine Manual. 2nd Ed. Edinburgh: Elsevier Saunders 2006.

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