Canine-killing disease Ehrlichiosis in dogs, spread by ticks, is surfacing in new Australian state

Warning to pet owners as deadly new distemper spread by ticks emerges in another Australian state after first appearing across the country

  • Queensland dog recently tested positive for a deadly tick-borne disease
  • Dog recently traveled through Western Australia and the Northern Territory
  • Animal health authorities have found further detections in South Australia
  • Dog owners are advised to remain vigilant in detecting the signs of illness

A dog has tested positive for a new deadly disease in Queenland after the tick-borne bacteria was first discovered in Western Australia last year.

Canine ehrlichiosis is a canine distemper caused by infection with the bacterium Ehrlichia canis and spread by ticks.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries said the Queensland dog traveling through Western Australia and the Northern Territory contracted the disease after it was likely bitten by a brown dog tick.

Canine ehrlichiosis is a deadly tick-borne disease recently found in a Queensland dog after it was believed to have been bitten by a brown dog tick

Infections can turn deadly if not treated quickly and effectively.

Authorities have been monitoring the spread of canine ehrlichiosis since it was first discovered in May 2020 in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Further infections have also been confirmed in domestic dogs in the Northern Territory, Victoria and northern South Australia.

The exact location, age, breed and sex of the most recently affected dog have yet to be released by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Biosecurity.

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries asks dog owners to remain vigilant for the signs of the disease

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries asks dog owners to remain vigilant for the signs of the disease

A DAFB warning said that if you are moving your dog from an area known to have active disease, you should assess your dog’s health before entering the state.

“People moving or bringing dogs from the highway or adopting rescue dogs are advised by the department to ask questions about where the animals come from, their health status and what tick prevention they had before bringing them to Queensland,” the warning reads.

Dog owners are asked to watch for signs of illness and to seek veterinary advice if your dog has not followed a tick prevention program.

If you suspect that a dog in Queensland is infected with Ehrlichia canis, you should report it to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline.

What are the signs of canine ehrlichiosis?

Canine ehrlichiosis has 3 stages of disease:

– acute

– subclinical

– chronic

The severity of clinical signs can vary considerably between dogs.

The incubation period for the development of acute disease is approximately 1-3 weeks, although the chronic form may not show any clinical signs until months or years after infection.


This stage is characterized by non-specific clinical signs, including:

– a fever

– lethargy

– enlarged lymph nodes

– anorexia

– weight loss

– discharge from nose and eyes

– bleeding disorders such as nosebleeds or bleeding under the skin that look like small spots, patches or bruises.

There are usually abnormalities in blood tests, including low platelets and mild anemia. This phase usually lasts 2-4 weeks.

Death is rare during this stage. Most dogs recover after 1-2 weeks without treatment, but some can remain persistent subclinical carriers for months or years.


As mentioned above, some dogs can move out of the acute phase and become subclinical carriers for months or years. These dogs show no clinical signs and therefore do not appear to require veterinary attention.

Subclinical dogs either:

– clean up (remove) the organism

– remain asymptomatically infected

– progress to the chronic form of ehrlichiosis.


Clinical symptoms are similar to the acute phase, but are more severe. They can be:

– a fever

– weakness

– weight loss

– bleeding disorders

– pale mucous membranes

– eye abnormalities

– neurological abnormalities.

Infected dogs may be more susceptible to secondary infections. Blood tests often show severely low platelets, low white blood cells, and anemia. This form of the disease can be fatal.

Source: Queensland Biosecurity