In 2020, a potentially fatal tick-borne disease spread by brown dog ticks, Canine Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia canis), became present in Australia for the first time. The disease is present in many tropical and subtropical countries around the world, and more closely throughout our neighbouring Asian countries.
In WA there have been cases in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne regions. There have also been cases in the NT and SA. The disease has been long established in other countries but is new to Australia, so we don’t know how far it will eventually spread, or how quickly.
It is not currently a known risk in the Peel region. We want owners to be aware that it could spread to our region. Most of all we want dog owners to be aware of the risk when dogs are taken further north in the state.
What is Canine Ehrlichiosis?
Canine Ehrlichiosis (air-lick-ee-oh-sis) is a tick-borne bacterial disease, affecting dogs. It is also known as canine typhus, tracker dog disease, canine rickettsiosis, and tropical canine pancytopenia.
Canine Ehrlichiosis is transmitted primarily by infected specimens of the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and can cause serious acute or chronic illness and death in dogs. Variations of the bacteria can affect other animals (such as foxes, cats, rodents and livestock).
An infected animal will not pass on the disease to a human, however a human can contract the disease should they be bitten by an infected tick. In very rare cases, the disease can be transmitted via a transfusion of infected blood. Transmission of the disease is more common in the warmer months of the year, when the brown dog tick is more active. The disease has an incubation period of eight to 20 days, meaning it may not be evident immediately after finding and removing the tick
Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis
The symptoms of Canine Ehrlichiosis are considerably varied and will depend on the infected individual, as well as the phase, for example, chronic Canine Ehrlichiosis may not manifest for months or even years after the initial infection occurs. Commonly noted symptoms include:
- enlarged lymph nodes
- loss of appetite
- discharge from the eyes and nose
- weight loss
- anaemia and bleeding disorders such as nosebleeds or bleeding under the skin that looks like small spots, patches or bruising.
In the rare case the disease is transmitted to a human, symptoms include headache, fever, gastrointestinal upset and eye pain.
Prevention and treatment for Ehrlichiosis
The best protection is via treatments that repel ticks. We recommend SERESTO collars.
It is important to note that many products that are effective against ticks in other situations do not prevent the initial attachment of the tick and transmission of this disease. Please ask us for specific advice for your dog.
It is also important to avoid known tick-infested areas and full body checks should be performed daily for dogs living in or visiting at-risk areas.
Dogs who have been bitten or are suspected of having contracted Canine Ehrlichiosis should be taken to the vet as soon as possible. Ehrlichiosis is treated with antibiotics, supportive care and may require hospitalisation depending on the severity of the infection. Early treatment provides the best chance of recovery.