Australian chief veterinary officer Dr Mark Schipp is reminding all veterinarians to be aware of the presenting clinical signs of canine ehrlichiosis, a notifiable disease caused by the bacterium Ehrlichia canis, spread by the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus).
“This is particularly important for dogs that veterinarians examine which may have recently travelled from the Northern Territory, northern Western Australia, or northern South Australia—including dog-owning holiday-makers returning home,” Dr Schipp said.
“Veterinarians should consider ehrlichiosis in sick dogs with a history of tick exposure, especially in the absence of effective tick prevention.”
Acute, sub-clinical and chronic phases of ehrlichiosis are recognised, and the common clinical signs include fever, lethargy, corneal oedema, conjunctivitis, haemorrhagic eye changes, epistaxis and bleeding disorders, and limb and body oedema.
Less common but still recognised clinical signs include anorexia and weight loss, muscle pain and stiffness, polyarthritis, splenomegaly, lymphadenomegaly, vestibular disease and seizures.
Ehrlichiosis is immunosuppressive, therefore a wide variety of other co-morbidities may also be present.
The initial diagnostic work-up should include haematology and serum biochemistry, urinalysis, and blood smears to assess for thrombocytopenia.
“As a notifiable animal disease, if veterinarians suspect a case of ehrlichiosis, they should immediately notify the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888,” Dr Schipp said.
Further information on the diagnosis and management of suspected ehrlichiosis cases is available here.