Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is a potentially deadly dog disease. It can cause varying symptoms in affected dogs such as fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss and nose bleeds.

Ehrlichiosis, also referred to as canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME), is caused by the Ehrlichia canis (E. canis) bacteria and transmitted by the brown dog tick biting and infecting dogs. On rare occasions, humans may become infected with E.canis through the bite from an infected tick. Dogs cannot directly transmit infection to people.

There is no vaccine against ehrlichiosis but antibiotics may assist in managing the disease if affected dogs are treated early. Tick control is the main preventative measure against the disease.

Protect dogs from ehrlichiosis by regularly checking them for ticks, using effective tick control and seeking veterinary advice promptly if they become unwell. Notify Agriculture Victoria of suspect cases immediately on the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.

Reduce the risk of bringing the disease into Victoria by adopting or purchasing dogs within the state. Avoid bringing dogs into Victoria as other states and territories have confirmed cases of ehrlichiosis and/or brown dog ticks.

Current situation

To date, no dog originating from Victoria has tested positive to ehrlichiosis in our state. In the past, Victoria has responded to E.canis detections in dogs imported from overseas. The last case was in 2018 and the dog did not survive.

In mid-2020, the first cases of local non-imported dogs with ehrlichiosis were detected in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

In early 2021 several dogs were diagnosed with ehrlichiosis in New South Wales and Queensland, after travelling from the Northern Territory into these two states. In April 2021 South Australia reported its first case of ehrlichiosis in a dog.

Human health

On rare occasions humans can get ehrlichiosis through the bite of an infected tick. Please seek medical advice if you feel unwell after being exposed to ticks.

Information for pet owners

Pet owners are encouraged to carefully monitor the health of their animals and seek veterinary advice if there is any suspicion of illness.

Check your dog for ticks:

  • Regularly check your dog by running your fingers through your dog’s coat, over their skin, feeling for abnormal bumps. Pay particular attention to the head, neck and ears, chest, between their toes and around their mouths and gums.
  • Also check your dog’s surrounding areas for ticks as ticks may hide in warmer areas in the house or building.
  • If you find a tick, put it in a clean ziplock bag and take it to your local veterinarian to submit for identification. Freeze the bag with the tick first if you cannot take it to a vet immediately.

Tick prevention and control:

  • Put a tick-control program in place for your dog(s) in consultation with your vet, even if you haven’t found ticks before.
  • Use products registered to control and/or kill ticks on your dog, specifically brown dog ticks for the prevention of ehrlichiosis, and follow instructions on the manufacturer’s label or as directed by your vet.
  • Products available to be used on dogs include oral chews and tablets, topical spot-ons or sprays for applying on the skin, and tick collars.
  • Products available to be used for the dog’s environment include sprays, mists and powders.

Symptoms of ehrlichiosis can include:

  • fever
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • cloudy eyes or conjunctivitis
  • pain and stiffness
  • bleeding disorders such as nosebleeds, bruising on the gums or belly
  • enlarged lymph nodes

A dog could have ehrlichiosis if it shows some or all of these symptoms, and particularly if they have come from another state or territory with confirmed cases of ehrlichiosis and ticks.

Dogs with diseases or health conditions other than ehrlichiosis could also show these symptoms. Therefore it is important to take unwell dogs to a vet for professional advice, tests and treatment.

If you think your dog has ehrlichiosis, contact your vet or call the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Travelling and moving dogs:

  • For the health and welfare of your dog, it is best not to travel into states and territories with known cases of ehrlichiosis with your dog. If you choose to travel with your dog then please ensure effective tick control and prevention is in place.
  • Reduce the risk of bringing the disease into Victoria by adopting or purchasing dogs within the state. Avoid bringing dogs into Victoria as other states and territories have confirmed cases of ehrlichiosis and/or brown dog ticks.

Information for veterinarians

Further information for vets about E.canis is available on the Biosecurity Advisory page.

Canine ehrlichiosis is a notifiable disease nationally. If you suspect ehrlichiosis and/or another an exotic or emergency animal disease, immediately contact your local Agriculture Animal Health and Welfare office or the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Hotline 1800 675 888. You can also use the Notify Now smart phone app. Further instructions on the process to be followed will be given.

Additional resources

Media releases

Page last updated: 19 Apr 2021