Deadly dog ​​disease ehrlichiosis spreads to north-west Queensland

Veterinarians in north-west Queensland are concerned after the region recorded what is believed to be its first locally acquired case of ehrlichiosis.

The bacterial disease, spread through brown dog ticks, was first recorded in Australia in June 2020 and can be deadly to dogs if left untreated in its early stages.

Pet owners in Mount Isa are on high alert after the region’s first local case was reported last week.

“We suspect this is a locally acquired case as the dog has not traveled from the NT,” Mount Isa veterinarian Gillian Tenni said.

A dog in Mount Isa is the first locally-acquired case of deadly tick disease ehrlichiosis.(Supplied: Mount Isa Veterinary Surgery)

“That’s very concerning. It could mean that other dogs may be infected, and the bacteria is here to stay. And that’s what we’re worried about.”

“This dog was sick in the area for a couple of days before it was rescued and brought in for treatment.”

It can take between one and three weeks for an infected dog to show symptoms, Dr Tenni said.

There are three phases of the disease with antibiotics used in certain stages for treatment.

“So, in the acute phase dogs show clinical signs. If dogs are treated early in this phase, they are more likely to survive with treatment.”

Showing the white jaundiced gum of a diseased dog.
Anaemia, fever, lethargy, weight loss and unusual bleeding or bruising are all symptoms of Ehrlichiosis.(Supplied: Dr Campbell Costello, Outback & Airborne Veterinary Services.)

“Then there’s a phase where they may not show any symptoms and owners may think that their dog is getting better.

“That’s actually very dangerous, because it can lay dormant in their system and if it progresses to a chronic stage, where the disease has infected bone marrow, it’s deadly and no amount of treatment can help,” she said.

Fever, lethargy and uncontrollable bleeding


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