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Geographic distribution of babesiosis among dogs in the United States and association with dog bites: 150 cases (2000–2003)

Adam J. Birkenheuer DVM, PhD, DACVIM1, Maria T. Correa PhD2, Michael G. Levy PhD3, and Edward B. Breitschwerdt DVM, DACVIM4
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.
  • | 2 Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.
  • | 3 Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.
  • | 4 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

Abstract

Objective—To identify the geographic distribution of babesiosis among dogs in the United States and determine, for dogs other than American Pit Bull Terriers (APBTs), whether infection was associated with a recent dog bite.

Design—Retrospective study.

Animals—150 dogs.

Procedure—Canine blood samples submitted to the North Carolina State University Vector-Borne Disease Diagnostic Laboratory between May 2000 and October 2003 for which results of a Babesia-specific polymerase chain reaction assay were positive were identified, and breed and geographic origin of dogs from which samples were obtained were recorded. History and hematologic abnormalities for dogs that were not APBTs were recorded, and possible associations with a recent dog bite were examined.

Results—Dogs positive for Babesia DNA were located in 29 states and 1 Canadian province (Ontario). Babesia gibsoni was the most commonly detected species, with B gibsoni DNA detected in blood samples from 131 of 144 (91%) dogs. Of the 131 dogs positive for B gibsoni DNA, 122 (93%) were APBTs. Of the 10 dogs positive for Babesia canis vogeli DNA, 6 were Greyhounds. In dogs other than APBTs, there was an association between having recently been bitten by another dog, particularly an APBT, and infection with B gibsoni.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results document an expansion of the known geographic range for babesiosis among dogs in the United States. Testing for babesiosis should be pursued in dogs with clinicopathologic abnormalities consistent with immunemediated hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia, particularly if there is a history of a recent dog bite. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:942–947)