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23 July, 2020

Ehrlichiosis west of the border prompts urgent warnings from Biosecurity Queensland, veterinary professionals

Biosecurity Queensland has issued urgent warnings for the State’s dog owners to be on the lookout for a new tick-borne disease recently detected for the first time in Australia. The group is currently undertaking surveillance to determine whether Ehrlichiosis is present in Queensland dogs, following detections of the disease in dogs in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Queensland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Allison Cook said once the disease was present in the brown dog tick population, it would be very difficult to control.

On the alert… After recent detections of Ehrlichiosis in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, Queensland dog owners have been urged to maintain an effective tick control program.

“Dogs become infected with the bacteria E. Canis (Ehrlichia canis) after being bitten by an infected tick, typically the brown dog tick common to most areas of Australia including Queensland” Ms Cook said.

“Although infected dogs do not directly transmit the disease to people or other dogs, people can be infected from a tick bite in rare instances.

“Given the recent detections in Australia, we are alert to the possibility of cases of Ehrlichiosis in Queensland” Ms Cook said.

Biosecurity Queensland said Ehrlichiosis was an intracellular bacterial infection that primarily infects the cells of the immune system, and was oftentimes fatal if not treated properly.

“Infected dogs can present with a range of clinical signs” a spokesperson said.

“Owners must be on the lookout for signs of fever, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, anorexia and weight loss, discharge from the nose and eyes and bleeding disorders such as bruising, nosebleeds and bleeding under the skin.”

Ms Cook recommended dog owners maintain an effective tick control program.

“To help prevent this serious disease, owners should avoid taking dogs into tick-infested areas like the bush where possible, and inspect for and remove ticks in dogs if frequenting these places.”

“Owners should ordinarily inspect their dogs for ticks each day” Ms Cook said.

“They can do this by simply running their fingers through the animal’s coat and over the skin, feeling for abnormal bumps. Owners should pay particular attention to the head, neck, ears, chest, between the animal’s toes and around their mouths and gums.”

Ms Cook reminded dog owners and veterinarians that Ehrlichiosis is a nationally notifiable disease.

“To assist Biosecurity Queensland’s surveillance program, veterinarians are urged to submit samples for testing from dogs showing signs consistent with Ehrlichiosis” Ms Cook said.

“Both dog owners and veterinarians are to report suspected cases of the disease to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.” 

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