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Overview

Blood-feeding ectoparasites such as ticks, fleas, sand flies and mosquitoes can transmit many dangerous pathogens to dogs – such as bacteria, protozoa, viruses or helminths. They may lead to a variety of serious infections, mostly classified by their vectors: tick-borne diseases, flea-borne diseases, sand fly-borne diseases and mosquito-borne diseases to name a few.
Each region has its own risks of infection. Nevertheless, seven major companion vector-borne diseases (CVBD) seem to have a worldwide impact: anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, heartworm disease, leishmaniosis, Lyme borreliosis, subcutaneous dirofilariosis.
Major companion vector-borne diseases transmitted by ticks and sand flies are summarised in the table below.

Major canine diseases transmitted by vectors

Anaplasmosis

Ectoparasite/Vector

Pathogen

Clinics

Distribution

Ixodes spp. ticks, like Castor Bean tick (I. ricinus ) in Europe; Deer tick (I. scapularis) and Western black-legged tick (I. pacificus) in the US (for Anaplasma phagocytophilum)


the Brown Dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) (for Anaplasma platys)

Bacteria Anaplasma phagocytophilum,

A. platys
Anaplasma phagocytophilum:
  • Infestation of white blood cells (neutrophils)
  • Signs: fever, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhoea, vomiting, seldom bleedings and lameness
  • A. platys: can infest platelets, thereby causing fever, depression and a bleeding tendency
Anaplasma phagocytophilum:
  • US: states in the north-eastern, mid-Atlantic, upper north-central regions, and north-western California
  • Europe: northern and central countries like Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Scandinavia, Scotland and many regions in eastern Europe including Russia
  • A. platys: Common in tropical and temperate regions

Babesiosis

Ectoparasite/Vector

Pathogen

Clinics

Distribution

Ticks of several species;

in Europe esp. the Ornate Cow tick (Dermacentor reticulatus) and the Brown Dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

Protozoan Babesia spp.

  • Infestation of red blood cells
  • Signs: fever, lethargy, anorexia, anemia, red urine, splenomegaly, jaundice
  • Global distribution
  • Common in Africa, Europe, Asia, America, Oceania

Ehrlichiosis

Ectoparasite/Vector

Pathogen

Clinics

Distribution

Brown Dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

Bacteria Ehrlichia canis

  • Infestation of white blood cells (monocytes)
  • Signs: fever, depression, lymphadenopathy, anorexia, weight loss, hair loss, lethargy, bleedings, eye signs
  • Widespread in tropical and temperate areas
  • Reported from the USA, Europe (Mediterranean region) and Africa

Heartworm Disease

Ectoparasite/Vector

Pathogen

Clinics

Distribution

Mosquitoes (Aedes, Culex, Anopheles spp.)

Filarial nematode Dirofilaria immitis

  • Infestation of heart and lung
  • Signs: weakness, lethargy and apathy, weight loss, dyspnea, coughing
  • Common in Southern Europe, US, Canada, Australia as well as South-eastern and Eastern Asia, including Japan
  • Europe: prevalent in Portugal, Spain, Southern France, Italy, Greece and other peri-Mediterranean countries

Lyme Borreliosis (Lyme Disease)

Ectoparasite/Vector

Pathogen

Clinics

Distribution

Ixodes spp. ticks, like Castor Bean tick (I. ricinus) in Europe; Deer tick (I. scapularis) and Western black-legged tick (I. pacificus) in the U.S.

Bacteria

Borrelia spp.
  • Infestation of organs and connective tissues
  • Signs: lameness, depression, fever, renal disease, cardiac disease, hepatic disease
  • US: states in the north-eastern, mid-Atlantic, upper north-central regions, and north-western California
  • Europe: Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Scandinavia, and many regions in Eastern Europe including Russia
  • Occurrence also confirmed in Asia (China, Japan) and probably Australia

Leishmaniosis

Ectoparasite/Vector

Pathogen

Clinics

Distribution

Sand flies (Phlebotomus spp.), esp. P. perniciosus in the Mediterranean Region and Lutzomyia longipalpis in South America

Protozoan Leishmania infantum

  • Infestation of white blood cells in the bone marrow
  • Signs: fever, anorexia, enlarged lymph nodes, wasting, lethargy, alopecia, skin lesions, eye signs, seldom liver and/or kidney failure, polyarthritis, diarrhoea
  • In more than 100 countries, from warm temperate through subtropical to tropical climates
  • Extremely common in the Mediterranean area and South America; also found in Africa and Asia

Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Ectoparasite/Vector

Pathogen

Clinics

Distribution

Ticks of several species, esp. Dermacentor ticks

Bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii

  • Infestation of endothelial cells lining arterioles and venules
  • Signs: fever, anorexia, depression, lethargy, stiffness, oedema, lymphadenopathy
  • Across the US, and occasionally in Canada and South America

Subcutaneous Dirofilariosis

Ectoparasite/Vector

Pathogen

Clinics

Distribution

Mosquitoes (Aedes, Culex, Anopheles spp.)

Filarial nematode Dirofilaria repens

  • Infestation of the skin
  • Signs: small and painless nodules
  • Common in Southern Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa
  • Europe: prevalent in Italy, Southern France, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Eastern Europe

Through ectoparasite control, it is possible to reduce the risk of CVBDs to a minimum. Application of ectoparasiticides with acaricidal/insecticidal and additional repellent efficacy reduces the arthropod-host interaction – including attachment to the skin and blood feeding – and can thus reduce the risk of infection. Prevention of tick attachment and flea or sand fly or mosquito bites must be an established tool of disease prophylaxis in any dog living in vector endemic areas, or travelling with its owner to such regions. Dog owners should be made aware of the risks and the need for protection by their veterinarians.


Occurrence Maps

Each country has its specific occurrence of CVBDs depending on climate and endemic vectors. See the maps

Clinical Sessions

The following authentic case reports provide insights into selected CVBD cases

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Interesting Links

CVBD and parasito­logical relevant websites. More...

CVBD Digest Articles

Findings from the CVBD symposia. More...