Ehrlichiosis is a deadly disease in dogs caused by the bite of a brown tickinfected with an exotic pathogen Ehrlichia Canis ( E.canis) and animalhealth authorities are on alert for it spreading to other parts of thecountry.
In May 2020, E.canis was detected in a small number of dogs in WesternAustralia’s Kimberley region. This is the first detection of E.canis in dogsin Australia that had not been imported from overseas and is a notifiabledisease, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries . Animalhealth authorities are concerned that the tick-borne disease will soon hitother parts of the country.
Companion Animal Network Australia (CAN) National Executive Trish Enniswarned, “We have reports of confirmed cases of infected dogs in various partsof Australia, including Broome in Western Australia and the APY Lands in SouthAustralia.”
Although infected dogs do not directly transmit the disease to other dogs, thetransmission occurs through infected ticks, particularly the brown dog tickwhich is widespread in mainland Australia.
“Investigations into the origin of the infection in both northern WA and theNorthern Territory are ongoing with no obvious leads at this time, which meansit’s possible the disease has been present in some regions for some time,”said Ms Ennis.
In early 2021, ticks infected with the bacteria that causes ehrlichiosis werealso found in South Australia’s far north.
Veterinarian Dr Julie Bellamy, CEO Animal Welfare League SA, said,“Ehrlichiosis is a very serious disease with a high mortality rate inchronically infected dogs. Infected animals require veterinary treatment andsupportive care.
“Dog owners must be vigilant. There are a number of things you can do to helpprevent this disease in your dogs, including placing your dog on a tickcontrol program. Dog owners should consult with their veterinarians on therisk and preventative measures appropriate for their geographical area,” shesaid.
The National Pest and Disease Outbreak website advises pet owners to inspecttheir dog daily for ticks, especially if they have been in a tick-infestedarea. Run your fingers through your dog’s coat over their skin and feel forabnormal bumps, paying particular attention to the head and neck, inside theirears, on their chest, between their toes and around their mouths and gums.
The initial clinical signs of E.canis infection can include: fever, lethargy,enlarged lymph nodes, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose,weight loss and bleeding disorders. If your dog is showing any of the aboveclinical signs, please contact a vet immediately.
“We recommend you contact your veterinarian if you have a dog that is unwellbecause early treatment provides the best chance for them to recover,” DrBellamy added.
A spokesperson from the Department of Primary Industries and RegionalDevelopment, WA advised, “In areas where brown dog ticks are present or dogsto be rehomed are sick, rehoming agencies are encouraged have dogs tested forE. canis before moving them to ensure they are not spreading the disease toanother area. In Western Australia, movement conditions apply to dogs beingmoved out of the Kimberley, where the disease is established.”
For more information, visit www.agric.wa.gov.au/ehrlichiosis.
Ehrlichiosis is predominantly a disease of dogs but there have been rare casesof human infection. The Department of Health has information on their websiteabout ticks and human health precautions.
For more information on the disease visit:
Image : Credit: Department of Primary Industries and RegionalDevelopment, WA
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