Ehrlichia canis information for veterinarians

Infection with Ehrlichia canis is a nationally notifiable disease. If you suspect the presence of E. canis infection in any dog in Queensland, you must report it to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or contact the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

The Northern Territory, the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia and northern South Australia are areas where E. canis is known to be active.

Dogs travelling from these areas, and other areas where E. canis is likely to be active, are at risk of becoming infected with E. canis.

Assessment of suspect infections

When veterinarians notify Biosecurity Queensland of suspect E. canis (the causative agent of canine ehrlichiosis) infections, they will be put in contact with a Biosecurity Queensland veterinary officer to discuss the case.

The veterinary officer will seek epidemiological information about the likelihood of E. canis infection to inform diagnostic priorities. The specimen advice sheet – Ehrlichia canis supplement will be used as a guide for information collection.

High-priority cases

Based on the epidemiological information provided, a likelihood assessment will inform high-priority cases. High-priority cases will be of dogs with any of the following:

  • a travel history from the Northern Territory, the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia and northern South Australia
  • a travel history from areas where E. canis is likely, but not confirmed, to be active
  • a history of tick-borne related disease
  • a history of a blood transfusion
  • a history of clinical disease consistent with E. canis
  • pyrexia of unknown cause and thrombocytopaenia (as priority indicators).

Moving dogs within or into Queensland

Before moving dogs within or into Queensland from other states or territories, the likelihood of E. canis infection should be assessed by the dog owner, dog carers, person/s in charge of the dog or managing the movement of the dogs, and/or a registered veterinarian.

Key criteria for assessment are:

  • the health status of the dog
  • the dog's medical history
  • the dog's life history
  • whether the dog has been on an effective tick preventative
  • whether the dog has been present in areas where E. canis is known to be active
  • whether the dog has been present in areas where E. canis is likely to be active, but which is yet undetermined
  • whether the dog has had close contact or is a cohort of a dog which has a confirmed or suspected case of E. canis.

Veterinarians may be asked by dog owners for advice around mitigating the risk of their dog becoming infected or preventing disease spread. Advice will vary from general advice to advice associated with travelling. It may include:

  • undertaking a thorough veterinary clinical examination
  • undertaking diagnostic testing for clinically consistent dogs
  • inspecting dogs and cohorts for ticks regularly, with removal of any ticks
  • maintaining the dog on an effective tick prevention and control program, including use of external tick controls that kill ticks on contact
  • avoiding taking dogs into tick-infested areas (e.g. the bush)
  • for dogs originating from interstate and travelling into Queensland:
    • undertaking diagnostic testing prior to travel, with negative results before travel
      • observation that the dog is, and remains, clinically healthy between the time of testing and travel
      • isolating dogs from other dogs and tick vectors commencing at the start of a testing regime.

Veterinarians can discuss risk mitigation measures with a Biosecurity Queensland veterinary officer by contacting the Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23.

Where to submit samples

Submit samples from high-priority cases directly to the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory (BSL), including the specimen advice sheet (Form A) (PDF, 188KB) and the specimen advice sheet—Ehrlichia canis supplement. Samples can also be submitted for travelling dogs where it is considered necessary to confirm their infection status before travel.

E. canis testing of healthy dogs, or ticks from healthy dogs, prior to movement, or for any other reason, will incur a laboratory fee.

Testing of dogs showing signs clinically consistent with E. canis are performed as disease investigations at no charge but wider diagnostic testing will not be undertaken. Submit additional samples to your preferred commercial veterinary laboratory if wider diagnostic testing is required.

Samples from lower priority cases, where E. canis infection forms part of a range of differential diagnoses, should be submitted to your preferred commercial veterinary laboratory. Where E. canis infection is to be ruled out, samples will be referred from the commercial veterinary laboratory to the BSL for fully subsidised E. canis testing.

Samples required

The required samples from live or recently deceased/euthanased animals are:

  • blood:
    • 2-5ml in an EDTA tube (purple top)
    • 2-5ml in a plain tube (red or grey/red speckled top). If possible, a 1–2ml aliquot of clear serum should be obtained
  • ticks collected from the affected dog and placed in 70% ethanol or 40% propylene glycol.

Samples to collect from dead animals are:

  • unclotted heart blood (if available)
  • fresh and formalin-fixed samples of lung, spleen, liver, kidney, and submandibular lymph node
  • ticks collected from the affected dog and placed in 70% ethanol or 40% propylene glycol.

Tick collection kits

Tick collection kits have been distributed to a number of Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) offices and veterinary practices in Queensland. You can also request kits through the Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23.

Ticks may be submitted in 5ml tubes with 2.5ml of 70% ethanol along with other diagnostic samples if transporting by road. Ethanol cannot be transported by air or through Australia Post.

Also consider

Contact

General enquiries 13 25 23