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.

Australia has been undertaking surveillance activities to determine the geographical distribution of E. canis following confirmation of the disease in Western Australia in May 2020 and in the Northern Territory in June 2020.

The Northern Territory, the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia and the APY lands (Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) in northern South Australia are areas where E. canis is known to be active.

To date, no dogs of Queensland origin have tested positive for 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 the APY lands (Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) in northern South Australia
  • a history of tick-borne related disease
  • a history of a blood transfusion
  • a history of clinical disease consistent with E. canis (acute, subclinical or chronic forms)
  • pyrexia of unknown cause and thrombocytopaenia (as priority indicators).

Moving dogs into Queensland from interstate

Before moving dogs 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
  • medical history
  • 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 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 may include:

  • a thorough veterinary clinical examination
  • 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 the testing regime
  • inspecting dogs and cohorts for ticks regularly, with removal of any ticks
  • maintaining the dog on an effective tick prevention and control program
  • avoiding taking dogs into tick-infested areas (e.g. the bush)
  • seeking veterinary advice promptly if the dog becomes unwell.

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 dogs travelling from interstate where it is considered necessary to confirm their infection status before travel.

There will be no charge for E. canis testing 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 wide 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