July 20, 2021

The deadly disease you’ve probably never heard of

The deadly disease you’ve probably never heard of
Dr. Chris Brown

In the last year, this deadly disease spread by ticks has snuck into Australia with cases now found in most states and territories. Sadly, over 1000 dogs have lost their lives. So what is Ehrlichiosis and how can your furry family avoid it? And why haven’t you heard of it?!

It’s almost like another pandemic has meant the significance of this disease has been lost. But seriously, the spread of Ehrlichia canis (a tiny blood bacteria spread by ticks) across the north and central parts of Australia should be raising alert levels. With cases detected in the north of South Australia, NSW and even in Horsham in Victoria, there’s concern it could go nationwide.

The disease was first detected around the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia in May 2020 and is spread by the brown dog tick which is relatively common in the central and northern parts of Australia. Dogs traveling from infected areas in WA and the NT have then promoted the spread.

Once the tiny bacteria is inside the body, it leads to the platelets (those all important blood clotting devices in the bloodstream) being destroyed so the big signs to look out for are:

- Abnormal bleeding (especially noticeable on the gums or belly)
- Swellings on legs from bleeding
- Cloudy or red eyes

As well as…
- Fever
- And low energy levels

Importantly, while the disease can be fatal, early treatment with antibiotics does work. And dogs CANNOT transfer it to other dogs. It needs a brown dog tick to do that job. But the challenge is the brown dog tick has a huge distribution across Australia as you can see here…

So tick prevention if you’re living in high risk areas or travelling with your dog to northern or central Australia is a must. This is a disease that we need to be more aware of…and consider if these signs develop. Especially when the symptoms could so easily be confused with something like mouse/rat bait poisoning which is incredibly common in rural areas right now.

I hope this alert helps. Please share with anyone else who needs to know. It’s remarkable how little is known or heard about this disease…

(Images courtesy AMRRIC and RSPCA QLD)

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