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A veterinarian has reiterated his warning of the rapid spread of a devastating dog disease in Northern Australia.
Dr. Campbell Costello said he has confirmed Ehrlichiosis is now infecting dogs right next to the Queensland-Northern Territory border.
“We did blood tests on dogs at Alpurrulum on Lake Nash and they are 40 percent positive with Ehrlichiosis,” he said.
Lake Nash is 11 miles from the border and two hours from Mount Isa.
Dr. Costello has urged tourists like the gray nomads returning to northern Australia for the popular dry season to be made aware of the disease.
He fears infected dogs, and the host of the disease, the common brown tick, will quickly spread the disease across Australia without urgent action from dog owners.
He said that in other countries where Ehrlichiosis has been endemic for generations, the dogs have developed some resistance to it, which is not the case in Australia.
Thousands of dogs have died, and Dr. Costello has found an 80 percent mortality rate from Ehrlichiosis infections.
“We are on the verge of a disaster,” he said from his clinic in Tennant Creek, Northern Territory.
Ehrlichiosis was first discovered in northern WA a year ago and has now been found throughout the NT and northern South Australia with cases in traveling dogs in NSW and Qld.
Tasmania is trying to introduce border restrictions to keep both the disease and ticks out.
Ehrlichiosis is a nationally reportable disease and veterinarians across Australia have been made aware of its spread.
“Before dogs are brought into or into Queensland from other states or territories, the likelihood of E. canis infection should be assessed by the dog owner, the grooms, the people responsible for the dog or the dog movement administration and / or a registered veterinarian”, says the official council of the government of Qld.
The WA government has movement restrictions for dogs traveling north to south that include proof of tick treatment and protection.
Victoria’s official advice is for owners to “avoid” bringing dogs to Victoria from other states and territories.
Before traveling to South Australia, dog owners are advised to ensure that their dogs are in good health, showing no signs of disease, are tick free, and are on an up-to-date tick control program.
NSW’s advice is for owners moving their dogs from locations with active diseases to assess their dog’s health and history before moving.
“… People who plan to move or adopt dogs off the motorway should always check where the animals come from, what tick prevention they have carried out and their state of health.”
Costello said the disease was unstoppable.
“The horse jumped,” he said.
“I see many cases in which most dogs die every day.”
Costello said the disease not only decimated the dog population in remote communities, it also killed backyard pets in urban areas.
Authorities say the best defense against ehrlichiosis is two forms of tick protection; there are no vaccines.
Veterinarians like Dr. Costello said popular chewable tick prevention alone isn’t enough.
He said a repellent like a pyrethrin collar was also needed.
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