TDC Healthy Homes team member Marcellus Wundjar pictured holding a puppy in Wadeye.
As readers may be aware, Ehrlichiosis is a tick disease that has been spreading across Northern Australia since its first discovery in the Kimberley region, Western Australia in May 2020. Many communities have been hit hard by the disease and in some places reports of dog deaths have been high.
AMRRIC was approached by Thamarrurr Development Corporation Team Leader Tom in February for some help with the dogs in Wadeye. Propelled by a heavy wet season, tick numbers in Wadeye were unmanageable and dogs appeared to be sick from disease, with some even dying. In talking with Tom, AMRRIC Program Manager and veterinarian Dr Chelsea discerned that these signs were likely consistent with Ehrlichosis. At that time, roads to Wadeye were too wet to drive and Owners were unable to travel to Darwin for veterinary treament. Dr Chelsea performed some virtual consults with dog owners with TDC Healthy Homes’ help and was able to send antibiotic treatments in the post. However, the key to Ehrlichiosis prevention and management is tick control – and the Wadeye dogs still needed help.
The AMRRIC team, lead by Project Officer Katrina, coordinated delivery of Nexgard® antiparasitic treatment using a combination of discounted product purchased by AMRRIC and product purchased by TDC. However, Wadeye is one of the largest communities in the Northern Territory and has is estimated to be home to 800-ish dogs – so treating all dogs with registered antiparasitic treatments can become very expensive, very quickly!
A temporary solution was forged – to train the TDC Healthy Homes team to use Ivermectin to treat Wadeye dogs for ticks and other parasites. Ivermectin is routinely used by veterinarians in remote communities for parasite control as it is broad spectrum (treats for lots of different parasites), is readily available and is relatively cost effective. However, the use of Ivermectin in dogs can be very dangerous if not used correctly.
The AMRRIC and TDC Healthy Homes teams had a virtual meeting where they were able to: share stories about the ticks and suspected tick sickness in Wadeye; demonstrate and learn how to correctly dispense Ivermectin to dogs for parasite treatment; and, discuss and understand the risks of Ivermectin use in dogs and safety concerns for people. The TDC team reported they felt empowered to be able to help keep the dogs in Wadeye happy and healthy. AMRRIC staff were able to support the TDC Healthy Homes community effort remotely – helpign to fill a gap while AMRRIC continue to advocate for funding to support animal management in Wadeye and the broader West Daly region.