For a long time, tick paralysis was the main tick-borne disease Australian pet parents had to worry about. Now, there is another deadly tick-borne disease that is becoming a concern in Australia: canine ehrlichiosis. 

What is canine ehrlichiosis? 

Canine ehrlichiosis is a tick-borne disease caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia canis. This bacterium infects cells that play an important role in the immune system. It was first confirmed in domesticated dogs in Australia in May 2020 and primarily affects canines. 

How is canine ehrlichiosis transmitted? 

Dogs become infected with Ehrlichia canis when they are bitten by a brown dog tick that carries the bacteria.  

Dogs do not spread the disease to each other directly; however, it can be transmitted between dogs through a blood transfusion.  

Can you get ehrlichiosis from your dog? 

No, dogs cannot transmit ehrlichiosis to their owners. Humans can be infected if they are bitten by an infected tick, but such cases are rare.  

Where has canine ehrlichiosis been reported in Australia?  

Canine ehrlichiosis has been detected in: 

  • The entire Northern Territory 
  • Queensland (particularly North, Northwest and Far North QLD) 
  • South Australia (Port Augusta and areas north of here) 
  • Western Australia (there have been confirmed cases in the Pilbara, Gascoyne and northern Goldfields) 

 

There is the potential for ehrlichiosis to be found wherever brown dog ticks live. If you live in or are travelling through these areas, make sure your dog is protected against ehrlichiosis by using reputable tick treatments.  

What are the symptoms of ehrlichiosis in dogs? 

The severity of symptoms shown will depend on what phase of disease the dog is in.  

The main symptoms to look out for in your dog are: 

  • Weight loss 
  • Lethargy  
  • Weakness 
  • Fever 
  • Enlarged lymph nodes 
  • Abnormal discharge from the eyes and nose 
  • Abnormal bleeding or bruising 
  • Pale gums 

 

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, take them to your veterinarian for an examination as soon as possible.  

Infected dogs that survive the acute phase may continue to carry the disease and/or may develop chronic, end-stage disease. Unfortunately, chronically affected dogs have a high mortality rate.  

 

How do you prevent ehrlichiosis in dogs? 

Because the Ehrlichia canis bacteria is transmitted within a matter of hours when an infected tick bites a dog, Greencross Vets recommend a two-pronged approach to prevention: 

  1. Repel ticks – Products like Seresto collars or Advantix, repel the ticks before they can attach to a dog, with the aim being to avoid the tick biting your dog.   
  2. Kill ticks – Tick preventatives like Nexgard and Nexgard Spectra, Simparica and Simparica Trio, Credelio Plus, and Bravecto will kill a tick should they still manage to attach to your pet. These products are also important for paralysis tick prevention.  

 

If you live in, or are travelling to, high-risk ehrlichiosis areas, make sure you speak to your veterinarian to see which tick repellant products can be incorporated into your dog’s parasite prevention plan.  

Other steps you can take to protect your dog from ticks include: 

  • Treating kennels, bedding, and outdoor areas with an acaricide, to kill potential ticks 
  • Avoiding tick-infested areas, such as bushland 
  • Keeping your dog’s coat clipped short 
  • Checking them for ticks daily 

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Petbarn (@petbarn)