A new disease in dogs has been found in Australia.
The disease ehrlichiosis, an exotic tick-borne dog disease, has been confirmed in a small number of dogs in Katherine and also in a remote settlement west of Alice Springs.
Last month, ehrlichiosis was detected and confirmed in Western Australia's Kimberly region, the first detection ever reported in Australia.
The affected dogs were found in Halls Creek and Kununurra and while the WA Government established a dog control area it has broken out and spread to Katherine NT.
Ehrlichiosis occurs worldwide.
Once the disease is in the brown dog tick population it's very difficult to control, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions.
Ehrlichiosis is the result of the Ehrlichia canis bacteria being transmitted to dogs by the brown dog tick, which is widespread in northern Australia.
Ehrlichiosis in dogs requires immediate veterinary treatment for the best chance of recovery.
Symptoms of ehrlichiosis infection in dogs can include:
- enlarged lymph nodes
- loss of appetite
- discharge from the eyes and nose
- weight loss
- bleeding disorders.
The disease is only passed from infected dogs to humans in very rare cases.
"Prevention is the best protection for dogs as vaccinations are not presently available" said Dr Susanne Fitzpatrick, chief veterinary officer in the Biosecurity and Animal Welfare Division of the Department of Primary Industry and Resources.
"All dog owners are strongly encouraged to have their dogs on a tick control program, regularly check their dogs for ticks, and be on the lookout for signs of the disease," said Dr Fitzpatrick.
Signs of infection in dogs can include fever, lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, bleeding disorders, and, if not properly treated, death.
"The disease can resemble other conditions in dogs with similar signs, including tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis, which are already present in the Northern Territory, so it's vital to seek veterinary advice and treatment if you suspect your dog is showing signs of ehrlichiosis," Dr Fitzpatrick said.
All NT veterinarians are being provided with information to ensure any dogs showing clinical signs consistent with the disease are sampled and tested as a precautionary measure.
The NT Government has launched a community awareness campaign and is coordinating surveillance with veterinarians.
Peak tick season in the Top End is generally during the wet season.
In extremely rare cases, ticks infected with Ehrlichia canis may infect people. However human ehrlichiosis is almost always caused by species other than Ehrlichia canis and these species have not yet been found in Australia.
For information on human health implications associated with ticks, as well as prevention, removal and first aid advice visit the Department of Health website.
Ehrlichiosis is a nationally notifiable disease. If you suspect your dog is showing signs of the disease, you must report it to your local veterinarian or the national Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline on 1800 675 888.
For more information, visit nt.gov.au/ehrlichiosis