Posted By: Dr Liisa Ahlstrom – Technical Services Veterinarian, Elanco Australasia
When I first heard that ehrlichiosis had been detected in Western Australia in May 2020, my heart sank. It’s a serious and deadly tick-borne disease that causes terrible suffering for dogs, and it was detected in a region difficult to reach and to support with veterinary services. Ehrlichiosis is caused by the bacterium, Ehrlichia canis, and is spread between dogs by the bite of the brown dog tick.
Vets have told me how heartbreaking it’s been witnessing the devastating impact of this disease as it’s swept through the top end, killing up to 80% of dogs in some communities, and the consequences of this loss for their owners. The animal welfare implications of ehrlichiosis are immediately clear, but the human toll of this disease outbreak should not be underestimated.
For Australian indigenous communities in remote areas, dogs not only provide companionship, but are part of their cultural and kinship systems, support hunting activities, help with pest management and provide warmth on cold nights. Australian organisation AMRRIC (Animal Management in Remote and Rural Indigenous Communities) is dedicated to supporting the health of companion animals in these communities. According to AMRRIC there is an “inseparable link between the health and wellbeing of companion animals and that of their owners and their communities.” I couldn’t agree more and it’s one of the reasons I am proud to be working as a Technical Services Veterinarian for Elanco, where animal welfare and the human-animal bond are front and centre of everything we do, and we can make a real difference during these times of animal health crisis.
While all tick protection products have an important role to play in stopping the spread of ehrlichiosis by reducing the overall populations of brown dog ticks (and protecting dogs from many other types of ticks), most products kill ticks too slowly to prevent transmission of this particular disease. Only products that repel ticks, to stop ticks from biting, are able to protect individual dogs from ehrlichiosis. In Australia, there are only two products that can repel ticks, and they are both owned and distributed by Elanco – Seresto and Advantix.
This means that Elanco has an enormous responsibility to ensure we do whatever we can to help protect individual dogs, and to slow the spread of ehrlichiosis in Australia. We’ve done this by ensuring ehrlichiosis is included on the product label of Seresto collars for dogs, so that vet and retail customers can understand and recommend it with confidence. We’ve also been supporting veterinary education and public awareness activity about the disease and risk factors (such as travelling with pets during holidays).
Last but not least, Elanco is supporting the efforts of AMRRIC through product donations, and matched employee donations through the Healthy Purpose program – efforts I hope will continue to grow in scale and impact. AMRRIC recently won an international award from the UK Kennel Club for their work “creating culturally safe veterinary and education programmes in remote Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.” Well done AMRRIC!
For information about ehrlichiosis in Australia, visit the Australian government’s National Pet and Disease Outbreaks website.
Photo courtesy of AMRRIC