Potentially fatal tick-borne disease ehrlichiosis spreads to north Queensland

A rare tick-borne disease has spread to the east coast after a dog tested positive for ehrlichiosis in Townsville last week.

The disease is spread by ticks that carry the bacteria Ehrlichia canis (E. canis) and can have fatal consequences for household pets.

Campbell Costello, from Outback & Airborne Veterinary Services, said it was the first time the disease had been detected on Australia’s east coast and it was not to be underestimated.

“It’s a big risk,” Dr. Costello said.

“I’ve had dogs come in with bloody eyes, bloody noses, bloody anals, and they’re having trouble breathing because their blood is going to their lungs.

“They died horribly.”

Where did it come from?

In May 2020, the first known case of ehrlichiosis was detected in a dog in Western Australia.

The brown dog tick has been present in Australia for decades and is found throughout Western Australia, the Northern Territory, northern South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

It acts as a host for carrying bacteria.

The first confirmed case of canine ehrlichiosis has been reported in Townsville.(Provided by: AMRRIC)

Dr Costello said it was important to note that it was not a new tick, but a bacterium never seen before in north Queensland that could cause “radiation-like” symptoms in dogs.

“This little bacterium is really sneaky,” he said.

“The tick bites the dog, regurgitates the bacteria into the dog’s bloodstream, and the bacteria then attack the liver, the kidneys, and most importantly, the bone marrow.

Tick ​​closeup
Canine ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease transmitted to dogs by ticks.(Provided by: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)

“A white blood cell emerges and eats [the bacteria]It is located inside dormant white blood cells.

“You kill all these mites in the blood with antibiotics, and every now and then, you get a mite that goes up and hides in the cells, and then waits for the antibiotic to wear off and recurs.

“So the dog could have been really, really sick for a long time.”

“The Great Pretender”

Because of how the disease manifests in dogs, the tick-borne disease has been dubbed a “great pretender,” Dr. Costello said.

Shows the white icteric gums of a sick dog.
Anemia, fever, lethargy, weight loss, and unusual bleeding or bruising are all symptoms of ehrlichiosis.(Provided by: Campbell Costello, Outback & Airborne Veterinary Services)

“It looks like anything,” he said.

“It just has a variety of clinical symptoms.”

Some signs could be unusual bleeding, lethargy, loss of appetite, or anemia, Dr. Costello said.

“They look yellow because their livers are infected and they have jaundice,” he said.

preventive protection

There is currently no vaccine against ehrlichiosis, so prevention is the best way to protect your pet.

“[Oral tablets] On their own they only provide about 70% protection, so obviously they have to be on the tablet and the tick collar … or you can do point-to-point therapy and the tablet,” Dr Costello said.

“Together they give us about 90 to 95 percent of our protection.”

gray collar on dog
Deworming collars and oral treatments are both necessary to protect dogs from ticks that may carry the E. canis bacteria, says veterinarian Campbell Costello.(ABC North Queensland: Mia Knight)

Unfortunately, the disease is likely to persist, but keeping it under control is a top priority for local veterinarians.

“I don’t think we can stop or eradicate this disease,” Dr. Costello said.

“Anyone who’s traveling, if they’re going to take a pet in a car or plane, make sure they’re on these products to prevent it from spreading.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *