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Cases of canine ehrlichiosis are on the rise, meaning pest managers should be on alert for identifying and treating dog ticks. 

Many will be familiar with the threat of the paralysis tick, but dog ticks and the disease they can carry – canine ehrlichiosis – is spreading. Pest managers should become familiar with this pest and make their customers in high-risk areas aware of the threat. As reported last year in Professional Pest Manager magazine, canine ehrlichiosis was first detected in Australia in May 2020. Previously confined to areas of Western Australia and the NT, it now appears to be spreading.

In March 2021 it was detected in northern South Australia as part of the national surveillance program and in January 2022 a dog in Mount Isa, which hadn’t travelled outside the area, was the first confirmed case of canine ehrlichiosis in Queensland. Canine ehrlichiosis is now fully established in the NT brown dog tick population and all dogs should be considered at risk. The map above shows (in red) the areas where dog ticks are likely to be present (source: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry).

Canine ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease caused by Ehrlichia canis. It is not infectious – dogs can only pick it up through being bitten by an infected tick. Symptoms include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, discharge from the eyes and nose, and anaemia, bruising and nosebleeds. There is no vaccine for the disease but as long as the illness is detected early, the dogs normally make a full recovery. Although rare, humans can also pick up the disease if bitten by an infected tick.

The dog tick is primarily a tropical tick. Potential areas of exposure to dog ticks and canine ehrlichiosis include Queensland, NT, northern NSW, northern parts of South Australia, and northern parts of WA as well as coastal areas of WA down to Perth. Pest managers in these areas should become familiar with control options.

Protecting dogs from dog ticks and canine ehrlichiosis involves the same measures as for the paralysis tick. Dogs should have a regular veterinary tick treatment and should be checked regularly for ticks (especially after walks in the bush). Backyards and lawns can be treated for ticks.

Ticks come into yards on native animals and like the paralysis tick generally live in the leaf litter. As such, a broad area treatment with a product labelled for tick treatments is an effective way to eliminate any ticks present.

However, as treatments will degrade in sun and rain there is limited residual effect, meaning regular treatments should be considered in high-risk areas. It is important to remember that unlike the paralysis tick, the dog tick will happily live inside buildings in dog resting areas and can be found in bedding and on nearby flooring and walls.