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Tick protection can prevent Ehrlichia infection

Q: One of the blood tests my veterinarian runs every year, Ehrlichia, came up positive last year and again this year, even though my dog, Echo, doesn’t seem sick. What is Ehrlichia, and how can I prevent it?

A: Ehrlichia (“er LICK ee uh”) are bacteria carried by ticks. The best way to prevent Ehrlichia from infecting Echo is to use a tick preventive throughout the year. You can choose from a chewable tablet, a liquid applied to the skin or a tick collar. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

Ehrlichia infection can be inapparent, or it can cause fever, lameness and loss of energy, appetite and weight. Some dogs develop eye problems that may proceed to blindness, brain abnormalities ranging from loss of coordination to tremors or seizures, or bleeding due to platelet damage. Sick dogs are usually treated with the antibiotic doxycycline. If treatment is started early, the prognosis is favorable.

Whether to treat dogs like Echo that test positive for Ehrlichia but are otherwise healthy is controversial. It’s noteworthy that, even with treatment, antibodies to Ehrlichia may persist for years, so Echo’s current positive test may reflect antibodies from a previous infection rather than a new infection.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Lee discusses options for flea and tick control in pets and how they work.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

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