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Assistance for dogs affected by tick-borne disease ehrlichiosis

AMRRIC supporting remote communities to treat dogs threatened by new tick-borne disease 

Companion animals in remote communities across Australia have experienced a challenging year so far. Due to restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 27,500 dogs have had reduced access to veterinary services and parasite protection - some have had absences of vet services for more than 12 months. 


Further to this, a rare and life-threatening tick-borne disease affecting dogs, Ehrlichiosis, was discovered in the Kimberley in May, and has since been detected in other regions in WA, as well as throughout the NT. 

Background on Ehrlichiosis 

Ehrlichiosis is a disease of dogs that occurs when a brown dog tick infected with the bacteria, Ehrlichia canis, bites a dog. It can result in death if not properly treated. 

In very rare cases, infected ticks may infect people. 

Dog owners should have their dogs on a tick control program, regularly check their dogs for ticks and be on the lookout for signs of the disease. 

AMRRIC estimates of dog populations
in declared biosecurity areas
E. canis occurs around the world, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. Infection with E. canis (ehrlichiosis) was confirmed for the first time in Australian dogs in May 2020 in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and June 2020 in the Northern Territory. 

Dogs develop ehrlichiosis after being bitten by a brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) infected with E. canis. The brown dog tick is widely distributed worldwide and is present across northern Australia.

Together with its partners and with communities, AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities) has been working hard to improve health outcomes for these animals. Following the resumption of remote travel, teams of veterinary service providers have been on the road non-stop delivering veterinary services and parasite protection

A key focus for AMRRIC’s vet team has been working to collect samples to allow the NT Department of Primary Industries to test animals for Ehrlichiosis, which has now been discovered in remote communities and urban centres throughout the NT

To address this growing issue, AMRRIC has secured a large quantity of parasite medication through generous support from Boehringer Ingelheim, the manufacturers of NexGard. AMRRIC’s investment of $20,000, together with generous discounts from Boehringer Ingelheim, will result in almost 3000 dogs receiving NexGard – a highly effective anti-parasite treatment targeting ticks, fleas and mange
 
AMRRIC and PETstock staff at the Petstock Berrimah shop in Darwin with some of the NexGard and donated food
AMRRIC has also had additional support from PETstock Assist in coordinating stock delivery and providing a $10,500 donation of food and enrichment products for companion animals in remote communities

PETstock Assist Charity and Events Coordinator, Jessica Guilfoyle, says supporting members of the community hardest hit by COVID-19 has been a key focus for the charity; 

“Throughout the pandemic our charity has been working closely with community groups such as AMRRIC to determine where the greatest need is, and how we can provide support.” she says. ‘Ehrlichiosis is only magnifying the need for this support to remote communities. 

AMRRIC CEO Brooke Rankmore with
PETstock Darwin Manager Daniel Brockhurst
AMRRIC CEO Dr. Brooke Rankmore says: “AMRRIC works with our partners to provide support for companion animals in remote communities- when animals are healthy, people and communities are healthy. 

Ehrlichiosis poses a massive threat to the health of not only dogs but the whole community. 

By providing anti-parasitic medications to at-risk communities, the threat posed by ticks infected with the Erhlichiosis bacteria is lessened. 
The valuable contribution and support provided by Boehringer Ingelheim and PETstock Assist will go a long way in supporting communities with this emerging issues. 

Starting in September, AMRRIC will begin distributing NexGard, with the help of residents, to communities in need. This medication will treat dogs who may not have had access to vet services since 2019. 

AMRRIC Program Manager-Strategic Delivery Dr Bonny Cumming says: “In the absence of vet programs due to the wet season and the pandemic, it can be hard for owners in remote communities to access effective animal health products. Administering regular tick prevention like NexGard aids in protecting dogs from Ehrlichiosis, and is a great way to support their general health.”

With Ehrlichia canis potentially making its way into more and more communities, the work that AMRRIC is doing in collecting data and distributing anti-parasitic medication is increasingly important. AMRRIC has always had a focus on meeting critical needs in community in a collaborative and consultative way; in the past, this had meant delivering emergency support following a cyclone or natural emergency, but in this case, the emergency is a zoonotic disease new to Australia.

About AMRRIC

AMRRIC – Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities – is a national not- for-profit organization. Our One Health, One Wellbeing approach recognises the inextricable links between human, animal and environmental health and wellbeing. By working with remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia to improve the health of their companion animals, AMRRIC is helping to create healthier, safer and happier communities.

In the communities where AMRRIC works, access to veterinary services is extremely limited, due to a variety of geographic, social-economic and cultural factors. Without veterinary services, the health and welfare of animals suffers, as does the health and wellbeing of community members. AMRRIC works with a range of stakeholders including veterinarians, regional councils and Indigenous corporations, to ensure remote communities have access to culturally appropriate, effective and ongoing veterinary services. We also employ education programs within local schools and other community groups to share knowledge with children and adults about animal health and wellbeing, and discuss links to human health and wellbeing. The longer-term objectives of our model are sustainability and capacity building, so that ultimately, communities can confidently and effectively manage their own companion animal populations.

About PETstock Assist

PETstock Assist is a registered charity committed to making a long-term difference and positive change in the lives of pets and humans through education, awareness and donations. 100% of donations to PETstock Assist are donated to charities that share its mission.

Since inception, PETstock Assist has microchipped more than 22,000 pets, found homes for more than 12,000 rescue pets, coordinated food drives to the value of $5 million, donated more than $3 million to charities and founded ‘The Pet Mob’ – a program that sees PETstock Vets visit Papunya in the NT to provide veterinary services including desexing and parasite treatments.

Fore more information, visit amrric.org, facebook.com/amrric and www.petstock.com.au/assist

MEDIA RELEASE, 17th September 2020
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