Epidemiology of Vector-Borne Pathogens among U.S. Government Working Dogs

Alyssa C. Meyers, Lisa Auckland, Hannah F. Meyers, Carlos A. Rodriguez, Eric Kontowicz, Christine A. Petersen, Bruno L. Travi, John P. Sanders, Sarah A. Hamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Surveillance of U.S. domestic dogs for exposure to vector-borne pathogens can identify regions of transmission that are relevant for human and animal health. Working dogs with high levels of outdoor exposure may be sensitive indicators of local risk, owing to increased contact with vectors. We randomly selected 476 high-value government working dogs from 40 states to determine the prevalence of infection with Dirofilaria immitis and Rickettsia spp., and exposure to Ehrlichia spp., Anaplasma spp., and Borrelia burgdorferi, and identify risk factors for positivity. Additionally, we tested 100 of these dogs from Texas for Leishmania spp. where sand fly vectors occur. Previously published Trypanosoma cruzi infection data on these dogs were used to identify coinfection or co-exposures. Infection prevalence was 0.84% for D. immitis, and all dogs were negative for Rickettsia spp. DNA. Seroprevalence of each pathogen was: B. burgdorferi 0.84%, Ehrlichia spp. 1.3%, Anaplasma spp. 1.5%, Leishmania spp. 2.0%, and T. cruzi 12.2%. Coinfection or co-exposure took place in four (0.84%) dogs. In bivariable analysis, we found that D. immitis-positive and Ehrlichia-seropositive dogs were significantly older than negative dogs (p < 0.05). Furthermore, seroprevalence of Anaplasma spp. was significantly higher among dogs in the Northeast United States relative to other areas of the country (4.7% vs. ≤1.4%; p = 0.041). Although autochthonous Leishmania infections have been described in the United States, the cases reported herein may represent imported Leishmania infection. Most federal working dogs are bred in Europe, where the parasite is endemic and congenitally transmitted. Serological cross-reaction between T. cruzi and Leishmania spp. complicates diagnosis. In this study, the use of multiple testing strategies in a comparative complementary manner provided evidence for these dogs' true exposures. Comprehensive surveillance for vector-borne pathogens in dogs can improve clinician awareness and target prevention and treatment in a One Health manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-368
Number of pages11
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Anaplasma spp
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Dirofilaria immitis
  • Ehrlichia spp
  • Leishmania spp
  • Trypanosoma cruzi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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