Species which are pathogenic to dogs include:
- Hepatozoon canis
- Hepatozoon americanum
All Hepatozoon species have the same life cycle: gametogony and sporogony in the definitive host (a bloodsucking invertebrate) and schizogony followed by formation of gametes in the intermediate host (a vertebrate). The definitive host of Hepatozoon canis is the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus, and the intermediate hosts are dogs and wild canids.
Hepatozoon canis infects leukocytes and parenchymal tissues and is transmitted to dogs by the ingestion of ticks containing mature oocysts. Following ingestion of infected ticks, sporozoites spread via the bloodstream and lymph to several organs including the spleen, bone marrow, lung, liver and kidney. In these organs, meronts are formed and undergo several cycles of merogony, releasing merozoites, which invade white bloods cells (mostly neutrophils and monocytes) where they form gamonts.
Clinically affected dogs usually present with anemia and neutropenia. H. canis may also induce severe clinical manifestations such as fever, anorexia, weight loss and lymphadenopathy associated with a high parasite load. Skin lesions have also been reported associated with localized infections, as well as anterior uveitis, glaucoma, osteomyelitis, protozoal polyradiculoneuritis and hypertrophic osteoarthropathy following systemic infection.
A presumptive diagnosis is based on exposure to ticks and presenting clinical signs and a definitive diagnosis requires cytological examination of blood or buffy coat smears, indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFA) or PRC assays.
Treatment of hepatozoonosis is with imidocarb dipropionate whereas H. americanum infection is treated with an initial combination of trimethoprim-sulfadiazine, pyrimethamine and clindamycin followed by maintenance with decoquinate.
However, failures have been reported with imidocarb, even when used in combintation with toltrazuril.
Treatment for both diseases has not been reported to facilitate complete parasite elimination and new effective drugs are needed for the management of these infections.
Tick control is an essential preventative method with dogs.
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