Has your Greyhound ever experienced any of the following symptoms?
– High Fever
– Depression or lethargy
– Diarrhea or constipation
– Loss of appetite or loss of body weight
– Nose bleeds, skin hemorrhage, or any other unusual bleeding
– Swollen legs or lymph nodes
– Nervous system disorders, such as stiff gait, head tilt, seizures, or twitching
– Pale gums and/or inner eye membranes
– If racing, declining performance
Has your Greyhound…
– Traveled extensively, especially in western, southwestern, or eastern regions of the US
– Traveled in regions where ticks are prevalent
– Frequented kennels with high turnover/large number of dogs
– Received a blood transfusion
– Been involved in a blood donor program
– Experienced stressors, such as poor diet, illness, relocation, or racing
– Been born to a known Babesia canis-infected dam
If any of these symptoms or conditions apply to your dog, it is important that you know about recent findings of tick-borne diseases affecting Greyhounds all over the U.S. Protatek Reference Lab has performed serologic testing for tick-borne diseases on over 5000 Greyhounds since March 1995. Findings revealed that some 40% of these animals are silent, asymptomatic carriers of at least one or more tick-borne disease agents.
Your dog may have been infected with, or exposed to, a number of tick-borne disease agents which may be uncommon in your area. In many cases, Greyhounds may actually appear perfectly healthy, with virtually no symptoms of disease, but be in a carrier state and potentially exposing other dogs, including their house mates, if ticks are prevalent.
Two similar and potentially serious tick-borne diseases are Canine Ehrlichiosis, also know as Tick Fever, and Canine Babesiosis. Both agents travel through the dog’s bloodstream and are typically transmitted by ticks, sometimes by the same tick bite. Greyhounds, as a breed, seem to be unique in their susceptibility to these diseases primarily because of travel to and residency in a variety of states and the potential widespread infestation of ticks at Greyhound breeding, training, and racing kennels. Because Greyhounds are transported across state lines for racing purposes and to adoptive homes, and the fact that they are used for blood donors, there is much greater possibility for widespread transmission of these diseases, once thought to be more geographically isolated in occurrence. Moreover, the Greyhound breed is known to be very sensitive and easily stressed, increasing their susceptibility to disease.
The symptoms listed above are typical of what dogs may experience in the acute phase of each of these diseases.
With Ehrlichiosis, affected dogs may later enter a chronic carrier phase which may last several years. During this stage, dogs appear clinically healthy, but red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet counts remain below normal levels.
These carrier animals may be a dangerous source of infection for other dogs. Of equal concern, these carrier dogs can develop a more severe phase of Ehrlichiosis if they suddenly become stressed or immuno-suppressed due to other illnesses, harsh environments, or the use of certain immunosuppressive drugs.
Carrier dogs are considered walking time bombs.
Once the dog goes beyond the carrier state and reaches the severe chronic phase, the disease becomes very difficult and costly to treat.
Canine Ehrlichiosis can easily be diagnosed by the IFA test used at Protatek Reference Lab. Treatment consists of tetracycline drugs or their derivatives. Usually dogs in the early acute phase require only 2-3 weeks of treatment, whereas chronically affected dogs require treatment for 6 weeks or longer. In many case, supportive therapy in the form of i.v. fluids and blood transfusions is also required.
In addition to tick bites, Babesiosiscan be transmitted through blood transfusions as well as trans-placentally, if the blood donors or dams are chronic carriers. Infections are most severe in dogs which become infected as puppies and young adult dogs.
Dogs two years or older generally develop an asymptomatic carrier state. Likewise puppies infected in-utero remain carriers if untreated. Carrier dogs may also develop clinical Babesiosis if their immune systems are compromised. Carrier dogs can spread infection at an alarming rate if used as blood donors or for breeding purposes.
Serology provides a highly accurate and reliable method for the detection of all stages of Canine Babesiosis. The IFA test is the most specific and sensitive method available.
Two drugs have been determined to be effective against Babesia canis infections: Diminazene aceturate and Imidocarb dipropionate. Diminazene aceturate is still not readily available in the US due to lack of FDA approval. In 1997, Imidocarb dipropionate finally received FDA approval for use against Canine Babesiosis in the US. The drug is now readily available to licensed veterinarians through Schering Animal Health.
Other Possible Causes
Two additional tick-borne diseases which Greyhound owners should be aware of are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF, Rickettsia ricketsii) and Lyme (Borrelia burgdorferi) disease. Cases of RMSF are most prevalent in the eastern half of the United States, but also occur in the West. Symptoms of RMSF are similar to those listed above for Ehrlichiosis. Likewise the disease is treated with tetracyclines.
Lyme disease is also characterized by many of the same symptoms listed above. Signs of chronic Lyme disease consist of recurrent, intermittent arthritis. Neurologic symptoms and kidney disorders may also develop. Amoxicillin or doxycycline are the drugs of choice for treatment of this disease.
The Protatek Reference Laboratory uses the IFA test for diagnosis of both RMSF and Lyme disease.
Humans are also susceptible to infection with certain strains of these four disease agents, if bitten by infected ticks.
Aside from the above tick-borne diseases, Greyhounds which have spent time in the southwest or western US should also be tested for an insidious fungal disease known as Valley Fever (Coccidioides immitis). Clinical signs are variable and progressive and may include coughing, lethargy, eight loss, lameness, blindness, and/or neurological disorders. Protatek’s diagnostic test is able to determine whether an infected dog has a localized infection or if dissemination throughout the body has occurred. Several Imidazole drugs are effective against the disease, which usually requires a longer treatment schedule than those mentioned above.
For more information about diagnosing these diseases and their treatment, consult your veterinarian.
Protatek Reference Lab is uniquely specialized in the diagnosis of tick-borne diseases. Our staff consists of individuals with long-term scientific/University experience with such diseases. Because of our concern for the Greyhound breed, Protatek has established a panel with a special discounted fee for the testing of tick-borne diseases, as well as Valley Fever.
Thank you for choosing Protatek Reference Lab. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 480.545.8499.
Updated 16 September 2011