Ehrlichiosis- Brown Tick Disease

Ehrlichiosis- Brown Tick Disease

Channel 7 recently ran a news program about the disease, which has caused some understandable alarm in local pet owners. The disease has not been detected in NSW as we do not have the species of ticks that transmit the disease, but it is still important to keep yourself up to date. The following is a summary of ehrlichiosis; causes, signs, treatments and risks to help you better understand the disease.  

Ehrlichiosis is a tick-borne bacterial disease that has been detected in parts of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. The disease is spread by Brown ticks, which are endemic to these regions of Australia. The disease has not yet been detected in NSW, and we currently do not have a problem with Brown tick populations. 

Ehrlichiosis is not a disease that can pass directly from infected dogs to humans. 

Do Paralysis ticks spread Ehrlichiosis?

The most dangerous tick in NSW is the paralysis tick. These ticks have:

  •  A grey body 
  • Legs close to their head (compared to the bush, cattle and brown dog tick)

Brown dog ticks:

  • Are a reddish brown colour
  • Has dark brown legs

The diseases carried by paralysis ticks are different to ehrlichiosis from Brown dog ticks. Paralysis ticks do not cause ehrlichiosis, but they are still dangerous and need to be checked for regularly. 

common ticks australia

What are the signs of tick paralysis vs Ehrlichiosis in pets?

If you are concerned that your pet has been bitten by a paralysis tick, these are the signs to look out for:

  • Heavy breathing, panting or coughing
  • Excess salivation or frothy vomiting
  • Change or loss of voice
  • Weak or wobbly back legs

In contrast, symptoms of ehrlichiosis include:

  • fever
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • swelling of chest or front legs
  • cloudy eyes or conjunctivitis
  • pain and stiffness

How can you protect your dog from Ehrlichiosis?

As with any parasite control, prevention is ALWAYS the best protection available. 

  • Make sure your pet is protected with tick prevention. This can include using tick collars, chews or serum droppers. Please make sure you follow the specific instructions regarding frequency of administration as per your vet’s instructions. 
  • Take care when bush-walking with your dog. A thorough search after bush walks are a great addition to your tick prevention routine.
  • If you live in a tick-infested area, take care to control ticks in your house and yard by using a pest controller. Also take care to check your dog over regularly for any signs of ticks. 

What should you do if you think your pet has a tick bite?

  1. Inspect your pet for ticks by running your fingers through your pet’s coat along their skin. You are feeling for any small abnormal bumps.
  2. Gently remove any ticks found with a tick remover or tweezers
  3. Always contact an emergency vet service or your local vet. Even if you believe you have removed the tick, it is common that the head remains partially attached and requires further treatment.
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