Australia Flying vet urges travelling dog owners to share distressing video to stop more animals dying

07:56  01 august  2021
07:56  01 august  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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An overwhelmed outback vet dealing with dozens of sick and dying dogs has shared distressing video of an animal struggling for breath to alert all Australian dog owners to a devastating, exotic tick-borne disease that can be prevented.

Authorities do not know how the ehrlichiosis that eventually killed the dog in the video entered the country.

But since the notifiable disease was identified in the Kimberley region in May 2020, it has infected dogs across northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and into the far north of South Australia.

Dr Campbell Costello from Outback and Airborne Veterinary Services fears travellers with dogs who are ignorant of ehrlichiosis, could cause an explosion in cases by carrying diseased brown ticks with them.

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Lots of travelers have shared horror stories about their pets being injured, becoming very sick, or even dying after flying in the cargo hold. So, again, seriously consider if the potential risks are worth it. Once your dog has its ticket, head to the vet and get a health certificate stating it is healthy enough to fly and up-to-date on its immunizations. The certificate is only good for 30 days, and you’ll need it for both your departure and return. ( Many airlines require that your dog 's clean bill of health be no more than 10 days old.)

It’s amongst the most painful memories I have, but at least I was by his side at the last. I tried my best to be strong for him, because I knew he would sense my distress otherwise. When it was done, I cried for several days. I knew he was in a better place; a place where he’d feel no more pain. Sadly, not all pet owners have the courage to stay with their animals until their last breath. They’re not there to see them put to sleep; they prefer to let the veterinarian handle the final moments. Now, one vet – who wishes to remain anonymous – has chosen to share his thoughts on it, and they’re heartbreaking.

"We are seeing a lot of people movements through the dry season, grey nomads and young travellers that are bringing their pets and don't have the appropriate prevention to stop their dogs getting sick," the flying vet said.

"They just haven't heard of it. My veterinary colleagues hadn't heard of it.

"Practically the entire eastern seaboard has the vector, the brown dog tick. All we need is this disease to venture in and it will explode.

"It won't be a case of 'oh it's an indigenous community problem or a bush problem', it can be an urban Australian dog that can be sick. It will venture into Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Byron Bay, all those areas."

Victoria has had one case and dogs travelling into Tasmania now have to be declared tick free.

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Instead of fleeing the animals ran to the injured dog 's aid after hearing its pained yelps, eyewitnesses revealed. The upsetting video filmed by a resident of the city of Lanzhou show cars swerving to dodge the group of small dogs . While they stood guard over their friend one of the strays is seen nuzzling at his friend to try and get a response. The devastated hounds did not appear to understand their friend had died from his injuries as they waited for him to get back up, those at the scene reported. It is claimed the callous driver did not even bother to stop to see if the dog had died .

Vets urge pet- owners to use preventative treatments against tick paralysis. One of the early signs to look for in animals is weakness in the back legs, and Dr Warren warned pet owners it is best to act early when protecting their beloved companions as preventative treatment 'can take a few weeks to work thoroughly'. Some of the more severe consequences of a bite are vomiting, a change in the bark for dogs as the muscles around the throat become paralysed, complete paralysis and death.

Most recently, a Queensland dog that travelled through the top end was confirmed with the disease.

"This bacteria (Ehrlichia canis) seeks out bone marrow, kidney, liver, it's comparable to radiation sickness," Dr Costello said.

"If it is detected early enough it can be treated and the prognosis isn't too bad, but plenty of dogs get very sick and die. The best line of defence against this disease is prevention."

Clinical signs include bleeding from the nose, bleeding into the lungs, a high temperature, and dogs being off their food.

Joyce and Robin Hughes who were camped with their fox terrier Ollie by the banks of the Thomson River, just outside Longreach had never heard of ehrlichiosis.

"Never, never, what is it?" Ms Hughes asked, having travelled from a tick free area.

Preventable disease

Kevin and Sue Brown, travelling with Russ the labrador, were aware of ehrlichiosis.

"I've seen photos of dogs affected with that disease and with that tick and it's just horrendous. We don't want him to go through that," Ms Brown said.

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Centre staff rushed the helpless dog to a vet ’s surgery where he was immediately put on a drip as he was seriously dehydrated. His swollen front leg had a tumour that stretched from his shoulder to his knee and staff said it had surely been there for months as his bony frame was covered in pressure sores. 'Anyone who may have any information can call 0300 1234 999 and leave a message for RSPCA Inspector Louise Labram who will be investigating the case.' VIDEO : Man dumps cancer stricken dog in freezing cold at 4am. (NOTE: Some may find distressing ).

They protect Russ with both a monthly tick tablet and a repellent tick collar, a combination that Dr Costello also recommended.

The flying vet said chewable tablets were insufficient, because they take up to five hours to kill a tick.

"It can't be passed dog to dog, it has to be passed via the brown dog tick, which only needs to attach to your dog for one hour and it'll regurgitate the bacteria into your dog's bloodstream," he said.

Caravan Industry Association of Australia marketing manager Keelan Howard is working with a travelling vet on an awareness campaign to reach tens of thousands of travellers via email and social media.

"I'm sure the majority of people love their animals, it's more of an awareness and education challenge right now."

Queensland's chief vet Dr Allison Crook said the infected dog detected in North Queensland survived the disease.

"The trick is to get in early, get veterinary advice and get treatment. There's no vaccine for E canis and so effective tick prevention is the key."

Biosecurity concerns

Dr Costello said the disease outbreak was proof that more money needed to be spent on biosecurity surveillance in the bush.

"There are more and more vets leaving the industry, there are more and more of these diseases on our front line and there's less and less funding for it," he said.

"We're concerned about African swine fever, African horse sickness, foot and mouth, screw worm fly, or rabies entering the country."

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