The fatal arrival of disease in dogs has been confirmed in South Australia.
Infected ticks have already been found in this condition, but this is the first confirmed clinical case of Ehrlichiosis in a dog.
The discovery of the sick dog and more infected ticks “suggests the disease is now well established in South Australia,” said state veterinarian Dr. Mary Carr.
Ehrlichiosis has already been found in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, with cases among traveling dogs in Queensland and New South Wales.
It is believed that in just one year, thousands of dogs across Northern Australia have died from the tick-borne disease.
Ehrlichiosis causes fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, abnormal bleeding, pain, and weight loss, and, if not treated quickly, death.
After long and expensive efforts over many years to keep the killer out of Australia, he was discovered in WA early last year.
Ehrlichiosis uses ticks as a vector to spread from dog to dog and is expected to become endemic to mainland Australia.
His arrival has been described by biosecurity experts as a “disaster” – there is no vaccine against it.
South Australia’s first confirmed clinical case was found in a dog living in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) countries in the far north of the state. This was announced late last week.
The first common brown ticks with Ehrlichiosis were spotted in the APY countries in January.
Dr. Carr has urged dog owners to ensure that dogs are receiving an appropriate tick protection program.
“The ticks and dog with the disease were found in the APY Lands communities and surrounding areas, so dogs who live and travel in the northern areas where tick counts are higher are at greatest risk,” she said .
“The best way to protect dogs from this disease is to prevent tick bites, so talk to your veterinarian about a tick protection program. You should also check your dogs for ticks every day and avoid areas where tick infestations can occur.
“If your dog becomes sick, let your veterinarian know, including where and when you have traveled.
“Dog owners in remote communities can turn to local services like the Nganampa Health Council for advice and support on animal health.
“Ehrlichiosis is a nationally notifiable disease, so if you suspect your dog is showing signs of the disease, you should get veterinary certification. Your veterinarian can access subsidized laboratory tests and report the disease by calling the Emergency Animal National Line Call Disease Watch at 1800 675 888. “
Dog owners in the affected communities have been advised not to exercise their dogs unless they are healthy and tick-free.
Dr. Carr said infected dog ticks are most likely to be in remote northern areas of the state.
“At present, dogs in the southern parts of South Australia are unlikely to become infected unless they have recently traveled to or from areas where infected ticks are found.”
Infected dogs do not transmit Ehrlichiosis to humans. In rare cases, however, ticks can infect humans.
The Federal Ministry of Health has information on ticks and precautions for human health on its website.