Lethal canine tick illness detected in South Australia

A female Ixodes holocyclus tick. Image – SL Doggett, Department of Medical Entomology, Westmead Hospital.

TICK disease, which is fatal to dogs, was first diagnosed in North-South Australia and warned South Australian dog owners.

Ehrlichiosis is a condition in dogs that causes fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, abnormal bleeding, pain, and weight loss. If not handled properly, it can lead to death.

In a statement this week, South Australian veterinary chief Dr. Mary Carr, the bacterium Ehrlichia canis (E. canis) that causes the disease in dogs, has been confirmed by laboratory tests of ticks collected from dogs in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands.

The discovery of tick presence in South Australia comes after the disease was first discovered in dogs in areas in Northwest Australia and the Northern Territory in May and June 2020.

Dogs infected with the disease cannot pass the disease on to other dogs. It can only be transmitted via infected ticks.

Currently, infected dog ticks are most likely to be found in remote areas in the far north of South Australia. Currently, dogs in the southern parts of South Australia are unlikely to become infected unless they have recently traveled to areas or have come from areas where infected ticks are found.

The brown dog tick is found all over South Australia, so infected ticks may also be found in other regions. Infected dogs do not transmit Ehrlichiosis to humans; In rare cases, however, infected ticks can infect humans.

Dr. Carr said confirming ticks with ehrlichiosis in South Australia means dog owners should be vigilant to prevent ticks from biting their dogs.

“The best way to protect your dogs from this disease is to speak to your veterinarian about maintaining or starting a tick prevention program.

“This usually involves regular treatments with a tablet, spot-on or tick collar,” she said.

You should also regularly check your dog for ticks and try to avoid areas where ticks may be found when you travel, ”said Dr. Carr.

“Dogs are at greatest risk in the regions in the far north of South Australia. So if you live in or travel in and out of these regions, you should be extra careful.

“If your dog gets sick, report it to your vet and tell them where you have been and when.”

Ehrlichiosis is a nationally reportable disease. So, if you suspect your dog is showing any signs of the disease, you must take him to your local veterinarian for a checkup. If your veterinarian confirms Ehrlichiosis in your dog, they should report it to the Department of Primary Industries and Regions by calling the National Emergency Animal Disease Hotline at 1800 675 888.

The Australian Government Department of Health has information on ticks and human health precautions on its website. You can find more information about the disease at pir.sa.gov.au/ehrlichiosis