This is a protozoan disease transmitted by the brown dog tick. Of the two types of brown dog tick seen in the United States, H. americanum causes a more severe illness than H. canis.
Signs of illness include diarrhea (often bloody), muscle and bone pain with reluctance to move, eye and nasal discharges, and severe loss of weight and body condition.
Your dog must ingest the infective tick - perhaps while trying to remove it - to become infected. Illness is most likely to occur in immunosuppressed dogs and pups younger than 4 months of age.
The disease can be treated with a variety of antiprotozoan medications, but a cure has not yet been established. Most dogs relapse despite treatment, and most die within 2 years of diagnosis.
Hepatozoonosis is best prevented by controlling ticks. Keep grass and weeds trimmed below ankle height, as ticks will position themselves off the ground on vegetation. Remove brushy cover and rock piles, secure trash can lids, relocate wood piles and bird feeders away from the home. These steps will reduce the instance of tick carrying rodents being attracted to your property. Stick to trails while on hikes and avoid the longer grasses where ticks tend to hide.
Ticks must attach themselves for 5-20 hours before they are capable of transmitting infection. Accordingly, a daily inspection with removal of ticks will prevent many dogs from being infected. Ticks like being warm and protected, so pay special attention to the areas under your pet's legs and in or around the ears.
Treating a yard with tick control agents will help reduce the occurrence of ticks. Frontline Plus, Advantix, and Advantage all help to control flea and tick infestations.
Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet may be infected with this disease.
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