Jun 1, 2021


Jun 1, 2021

A deadly tick-born disease that kills around 10 per cent of afflicted dogs and has already made its way to Queensland has exposed the nation’s biosecurity weaknesses, Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has said.

Mr Katter said vets across North Australia were alarmed by the rate at which ehrlichiosis was killing dogs from remote communities as well as backyard pets.[1]

The number of fatalities is so far likely to be in the thousands, with animals afflicted by the chronic phase of the disease suffering awful symptoms including bleeding disorders, weight loss and neurological and eye abnormalities that often lead to death.

The Traeger MP is now calling on Biosecurity Queensland to move urgently to control the spread of the deadly dog disease, which has so far ravaged Western Australian and the Northern Territory.

He said biosecurity roadblocks needed to be erected along the NT-QLD state border, advising of the outbreak and encouraging tick protection treatments.

Greg nomads – many of whom travel with pet dogs – are particularly at risk of transporting the disease, Mr Katter warned.

“With tourist season in full flight, we are now highly exposed to this deadly disease in Queensland,” he said.

“There have already been confirmed cases in Queensland, with at least four dogs that have travelled from the NT testing positive in the last six months.

“I fear that may be just the tip of the iceberg though, and indeed reports from people on the ground indicate the problem has very much taken hold in the areas it’s been identified.”

Ehrlichiosis is spread by the common brown tick, which can be found to carry a bacterium called ehrlichia canis.

Australia, and its common brown ticks, was previously believed to be free of the ehrlichia canis bacterium, which is endemic in parts of the Americas, Asia and Africa.

But during 2020, the organism was detected in Australian dogs for the first time.

“This tick disease is the latest in a line of biosecurity threats that Queenslanders are confronted with – the latest being the outbreak of the highly-destructive fall army worm, which decimates maize, rice, wheat, sorghum and cane crops,” Mr Katter said.

“It shows that our authorities are falling short of adequately preparing for and responding to serious biosecurity threats, which is unacceptable in the wake of COVID-19 and all the hard work we’re doing to get industries back off the ground and protect our futures against even more threats.”

Initial signs of ehrlichiosis are non-specific and may last between two to four weeks. They include fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite and weight, and unusual bleeding.

Dogs do not directly transmit the disease to humans but in rare cases, infected ticks may spread the disease to people.

Ehrlichiosis is a notifiable disease which means if the disease is suspected, you must inform your private vet or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.