Vets in Australia are currently battling a new disease infecting dogs through tick bites and warning owners to start taking precautions to protect your furry friends.
The disease is known as canine ehrlichiosis, and has appeared in northern Australia causing major concern for the millions of dog owners in the country. It’s transmitted through the bite of a bacteria-carrying parasite known as a “brown dog tick.” This specific type of parasite is mainly found in warm and humid areas, making Australia the perfect breeding ground for it. It’s bite has proven to be potentially fatal for dogs.
Initial cases of the disease were discovered last May, and now, more than 300 dogs in Western Australia and the Northern Territory have tested positive for it. According to Mark Schipp, Australia’s chief veterinary officer, infected ticks that carry the deadly bacteria have mainly been found in Southern Australia, and dog owners in the nation need to start taking precautions to protect their animals from the outbreak.
The spreading of canine ehrlichiosis is thought to now be a second pandemic for Australia, who has gotten the Covid-19 pandemic pretty much completely under control. The disease first appeared in the 1960s and 70s after a multitude of military working dogs, often German Shepherds, in South-East Asia during the Vietnam War. The disease was thought to be completely eradicated until its re emergence this past May.
“When an infected tick bites a dog, the bacterium enters white blood cells and multiplies rapidly, causing signs of illness the owner will only first notice about two weeks after transmission.”
The disease is characterized by fever, decrease in appetite, lethargy, and bleeding. Some dogs have developed severe and rapid weight loss as well as swollen limbs, and difficulty breathing. In some severe cases dogs have experienced complete blindness. One of the most serious effects of this disease is on the dog’s bone marrow, which can turn fatal quickly.
“Some dogs die of septicaemia as they can no longer fight off even the most innocuous of infections, or they bleed uncontrollably, which can also lead to death,” according to Schipp, who explained that every pet owner who travels into Australia with their dogs have to go through a vigorous testing process to ensure that their dogs don’t bring canine ehrlichiosis into the country. According to research from 2016, the brown dog tick has expanded southwards in Australia gradually throughout the past few years.
The tick is also now thought to be well adapted to living indoors, making it easy for them to have access to any dog in the country. Just as health authorities have combated the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia, the response from the state and federal veterinary authorities has been swift and intense. Most dogs are able to recover from the disease with antibiotics and other supportive measures, however, some can develop a chronic infection which could become fatal.
“The disease isn’t contagious; only dogs bitten by the ticks will contract it. So it’s vital animal owners are proactive with the application of parasite prevention.”
The emergence of this disease in Australia has reminded many residents of the importance of quarantine measures and remaining vigilant when it comes to protecting our pets; after all they are a member of our family. In Australia specifically, most owners treat brown dog ticks as seriously as they’ve been handling Covid-19, which is helping curb the spread of this awful disease in canines.
Owners should contact their veterinarian about which specific products will best protect their dogs from this disease. Research has proven that anti-tick medication that works to repel and stop ticks from attaching in the first place are the best for preventing canine ehrlichiosis; tick collars are thought to be amazing in preventing it as well.
Medications like Nexgard or Bravecto which are meant to be administered to your dog on a fixed schedule throughout the year, are some of the most popular brands in the nation for preventing all tick-related diseases. Australia is known for its vast landscapes and amazing scenery, and because of this dogs have endless opportunities to explore and, unfortunately, be bitten by ticks potentially.
Keep your lawn grass as short as you can and avoid taking your dog to any bushy areas if you can. Schipp also suggests contacting the housing mob or extermination services and look into getting your home and property sprayed for ticks. While this may seem a little extreme, as we’ve seen with the Covid-19 pandemic there is no such thing as being over-precautious, so do everything you can to protect your furry friends so they live a long and fulfilling life.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.