Detection of ehrlichiosis in Northern Territory dogs

Department of Primary Industry and Resources

The disease ehrlichiosis, an exotic tick-borne dog disease, has been confirmed in a small number of dogs in Katherine and in a remote settlement west of Alice Springs.

Last month, ehrlichiosis was detected and confirmed in Western Australia’s Kimberly region, the first detection ever reported in Australia.

Ehrlichiosis occurs worldwide. Once the disease is in the brown dog tick population it’s very difficult to control, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions.

Ehrlichiosis is the result of the Ehrlichia canis bacteria being transmitted to dogs by the brown dog tick, which is widespread in northern Australia. Ehrlichiosis in dogs requires immediate veterinary treatment for the best chance of recovery.

“Prevention is the best protection for dogs as vaccinations are not presently available” said Dr Susanne Fitzpatrick, Chief Veterinary Officer in the Biosecurity and Animal Welfare Division of the Department of Primary Industry and Resources.

“All dog owners are strongly encouraged to have their dogs on a tick control program, regularly check their dogs for ticks, and be on the lookout for signs of the disease,” said Dr Fitzpatrick.

Signs of infection in dogs can include fever, lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, bleeding disorders, and, if not properly treated, death.

“The disease can resemble other conditions in dogs with similar signs, including tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis, which are already present in the Northern Territory, so it’s vital to seek veterinary advice and treatment if you suspect your dog is showing signs of ehrlichiosis,” said Dr Fitzpatrick.

All NT veterinarians are being provided with information to ensure any dogs showing clinical signs consistent with the disease are sampled and tested as a precautionary measure.

The Northern Territory Government has launched a community awareness campaign and is co-ordinating surveillance with Northern Territory veterinarians.

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