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Dog owners on high alert after a deadly disease is discovered spreading rapidly through the country

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Millions of dog owners around the country are on high alert after the discovery of a deadly disease believed to be rapidly spreading throughout populated areas. 

Until now the disease ‘canine ehrlichiosis’ was only prevalent in Australia’s far north, but confirmed cases in South Australia have given veterinarians cause for concern.  

The first cases of the deadly disease were confirmed in the Kimberley region in Western Australia in May and the Northern Territory in June of last year. 

Since then 300 dogs have tested positive in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with investigations into the origin of the infection producing no leads.  

Millions of dog owners around the country are on high alert following the discovery of a life threatening disease believed to be rapidly spreading to populated areas around Australia

Millions of dog owners around the country are on high alert following the discovery of a life threatening disease believed to be rapidly spreading to populated areas around Australia

Symptoms of the disease can range from loss of appetite, swollen limbs, blindness, bleeding from the nose, lethargy, rapid weight loss and difficulty in breathing. 

The disease is transmitted through the bite of a bacterium-carrying parasite called the ‘brown dog tick’ that has existed in Australia for years, but without the infection.

When an infected tick bites a dog, the bacterium attacks the white blood cells and multiplies rapidly, with symptoms of the infection only showing up two weeks later. 

In serious cases the disease infects the canine’s bone marrow, with some dogs dying of septicaemia due to their vulnerability to other infections. 

Parasite experts can’t explain the southward spread of the tick, but believe factors such as climate change and increased pet travel around the country may be at play.  

Luckily, the disease is not contagious, only dogs bitten by the tick will contract it,  with the severity of the disease varying considerably in each canine. 

The bad news for dog owners, the tick has adapted to thrive in homes and kennels, as well as cooler climates. 

Until now the disease 'canine ehrlichiosis' was only prevalent in Australia's far north, but the brown dog tick (pictured, above) that now carries the disease has been in the area for years

Until now the disease ‘canine ehrlichiosis’ was only prevalent in Australia’s far north, but the brown dog tick (pictured, above) that now carries the disease has been in the area for years

Symptoms of the life threatening disease can range from loss of appetite, swollen limbs, blindness, bleeding from the nose, lethargy, rapid weight loss and difficulty in breathing

Symptoms of the life threatening disease can range from loss of appetite, swollen limbs, blindness, bleeding from the nose, lethargy, rapid weight loss and difficulty in breathing

Most dogs can recover from the disease after receiving antibiotics, however some will die from the results of a chronic infection, where symptoms are intensified.

Dog owners can keep their pet safe by using tick collars, keeping their grass short, steering clear of tick infested areas and inspecting their dogs daily. 

Infected dogs cannot transmit ehrlichiosis to humans, according to Australia’s National Biosecurity Network, and the disease doesn’t impact native marsupials. 

The National Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases will continue to conduct surveillance activities to monitor the spread of the infection in Australia. 

This post was first published on DailyMail.

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