All Diseases

Lyme disease pathogen - Borrelia burgdorferi

Blood-feeding ectoparasites such as ticks, fleas, sand flies and mosquitoes can transmit many dangerous pathogens– such as bacteria, protozoa, viruses or helminths - to dogs and cats. They may lead to a variety of serious infections, grouped and labeled by their vectors: tick-borne diseases, flea-borne diseases, sand fly-borne diseases and mosquito-borne diseases to name a few.

Different geographical regions have their 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 and subcutaneous dirofilariosis.

These major companion vector-borne diseases are summarised in the table below.

 

Major canine diseases transmitted by vectors

Anaplasmosis

Pathogen Ectoparasite/Vector Pathogenesis/Clinics Distribution

Bacteria

Anaplasma phagocytophilum

Ixodes spp. ticks

US: Deer tick (I. scapularis) and Western black-legged tick (I. pacificus)

Europe: Castor Bean tick (I. ricinus)

Infestation of white blood cells (neutrophils)

Signs: fever, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhoea, vomiting, seldom bleedings and lameness

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 the Brown Dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) can infest platelets, thereby causing fever, depression and a bleeding tendency Common in tropical and temperate regions

 

Babesiosis

Pathogen Ectoparasite/Vector Pathogenesis/Clinics Distribution

Protozoan

Babesia spp.

Ticks of several species;

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

Infestation of red blood cells

Signs: fever, lethargy, anorexia, anemia, red urine, splenomegaly, jaundice

Global Distribution

Common in Africa, Europe, Asia, America, Oceania


Ehrlichiosis

Pathogen Ectoparasite/Vector Pathogenesis/Clinics Distribution

Bacteria

Ehrlichia canis

Brown Dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

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

Pathogen Ectoparasite/Vector Pathogenesis/Clinics Distribution

Filarial nematode

Dirofilaria immitis

Mosquitoes

(Aedes, Culex, Anopheles spp.)

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)

Pathogen Ectoparasite/Vector Pathogenesis/Clinics Distribution

Bacteria

Borrelia spp.

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.

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

Pathogen Ectoparasite/Vector Pathogenesis/Clinics Distribution

Protozoan

Leishmania infantum

Sand flies

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

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

Pathogen Ectoparasite/Vector Pathogenesis/Clinics Distribution

Bacteria

Rickettsia rickettsii

Ticks of several species, esp. Dermacentor ticks

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

Pathogen Ectoparasite/Vector Pathogenesis/Clinics Distribution

Filarial nematode

Dirofilaria repens

Mosquitoes

(Aedes, Culex, Anopheles spp.)

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


Ectoparasite control is an important measure to reduce the risk of CVBDs. Especially ectoparasiticides with not only acaricidal/insecticidal but additional repellent efficacy affect the arthropod-host interaction – including attachment and blood feeding – and thus reduce the risk of infection.

Prevention of tick attachment and flea, sand fly or mosquito bites must be an established tool of disease prophylaxis in pets living in vector endemic areas, or travelling with their owners to such regions. Dog and cat owners should be made aware of the risks and the need for protection by their veterinarians.

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