Warning to dog owners after potentially deadly tick-borne disease detected

A warning has been issued for dog owners to be alert over a potentially deadly tick-borne disease.

Ehrlichiosis, which primarily affects dogs and can be fatal if not treated properly, was detected in ticks in South Australia.

Acting NSW Chief Veterinary Officer Paul Freeman said while the disease has not been detected in dogs of NSW origin, dogs brought into the state from the Northern Territory were diagnosed as positive to the disease.

The affected dogs are undergoing treatment.

The disease, also known as E. canis, is spread by the brown dog tick, Freeman added.

It cannot be passed directly from dog to dog.

“If dogs are being treated and/or have tick prevention then the risk of spread is very low,” Freeman said.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries is now focusing on raising awareness about the disease.

“NSW has a surveillance plan which includes testing dogs with clinical signs consistent with E. Canis and targeted surveillance, including retrospectively testing historical samples,” Freeman said.

“People moving or bringing dogs from interstate or adopting rescue dogs should ask questions about where the animals came from and what tick prevention they have.

“Every person bringing dogs into NSW has a general biosecurity duty to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the biosecurity risk of bringing E. canis into NSW is prevented, eliminated or minimised.”

E. canis was first detected in Australia in a small number of domesticated dogs in the Northern Territory and Western Australia in May 2020.

Further detections were made in dogs in other areas of the state and territory.

Initial signs of infection in dogs can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose and weight loss.

Dog owners are advised to maintain tick prevention programs for their dogs.