What is Ehrlichiosis?

Pet Care Pet Health Pets Posted Feb 1, 2022
Ehrlichiosis is a disease spread by the brown dog tick which primarily affects dogs and can result in death if not properly treated. We all want to protect our furry friends especially from nasty ticks, so how can you ensure your dog is safe?
What is Ehrlichiosis and why are we hearing about it now?

Ehrlichiosis was found for the first time in an Australian dog in the Kimberley region in mid-2020. Since then, it has spread around the country and is now found in most states and territories. It can result in death if not properly treated and in very rare cases, infected ticks may infect people. Dogs become infected with the bacteria known as Ehrichia canis after being bitten by an infected brown dog tick. 

This type of tick is widely distributed worldwide and is present in Australia. Once the disease is in the brown dog tick population it is very difficult to control, especially in tropical and subtropical regions.

A dog in Horsham has tested positive for ehrlichiosis making it the first detection of this disease for an Australian-born dog in Victoria. The infected dog came from the Northern Territory where the disease is established.

What are the signs of Ehrlichiosis?

Symptoms of the disease include fever, lethargy, eye changes such as conjunctivitis; cloudy or red eyes, abnormal bleeding and swellings and small spots or bruising on the body and limbs.

If your dog has any of these symptoms it is important to contact your vet straight away. This type of disease requires veterinary treatment and can also resemble other conditions with similar signs, including tick-borne diseases.

Other signs that your dog has been bitten can include local irritation with redness and swelling at the site of a tick bite. A Loss of coordination in the hind legs (wobbliness in the back legs), or not being able to get up.

How do you protect your dog from Ehrlichiosis?

Prevention is better than treatment because Ehrlichiosis can be transmitted within just three hours of a tick bite.

That’s why the APVMA last month granted a permit (APVMA; PER90869) allowing the Seresto Collar for Dogs to be used Australia wide by dog owners to “reduce the transmission of the tick-borne disease caused by the pathogen Ehrlichia canis, thereby reducing the risk of transmission of canine ehrlichiosis between dogs by brown dog ticks.” This particular collar works to kill ticks on the surface of the skin, including Erlichiosis. Seresto collars work to protect your pet for up to eight months. Tablets and chews registered for tick control can also protect your dog against this disease.

You can also protect your dog by inspecting them daily for ticks, especially if they have been in a tick-infested areas. Run your fingers through your pet’s coat over their skin, feeling for abnormal bumps. Pay particular attention to their head, neck, ears, chest, between their toes and around their mouths and gums. Always take particular care when walking your dog in bushwalking tracks.

Talk to your vet for more advice on tick preventatives for your pets.

When should I call the vet?

It is important to contact your vet if you find ticks on your dog and are concerned about the risk of ehrlichiosis, especially if symptoms start to occur including a fever.

If your pet shows any signs of a tick bite, take them to your vet immediately.

For more information on Ehrlichiosis, read our RSPCA Knowledgebase here.

Sophie Oxford
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