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LUCRĂRI ŞTIINłIFICE MEDICINĂ VETERINARĂ VOL.

XLII (1), 2009, TIMIŞOARA

DIROFILARIOSIS IN DOG CASE REPORT


M.S. ILIE, GH. DĂRĂBUŞ, ROBERTA CIOCAN, IONELA HOTEA, K. IMRE, S.
MORARIU, NARCISA MEDERLE, ALINA ILIE, D. MORAR

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Timisoara, 119 Calea Aradului, 300645, Timisoara,


Romania
E-mail: marius.ilie@fmvt.ro

Summary

This work deals about some pathological manifestations found in dogs’


dirofilariosis. The dogs were examined in the Parasitology and Parasitological diseases and
Small Animal Pathology clinics of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Timisoara, Romania.
The pathological manifestations were studied on 4 dogs of different sex, breed and age.
In chronic evolution of heartworm disease in most infected dogs do not show
clinical signs. Serological tests for heartworm disease can be negative in non-endemic areas
and that’s why additional methods are compulsory.The application of prophylactic measures
in dogs throughout the period of mosquito activity can be decreased incidence and
dissemination of dirofilariosis.
Key words: dirofilariosis, dog, diagnostic, pathological manifestation

Dirofilariosis is a disease caused by filarial worms of the genus Dirofilaria


(12). Filarial nematodes are common parasites of many vertebrates (1, 5). The
nematodes of genus Dirofilaria belong to family Onchocercidae and subfamily
Dirofilariinae of the order Spirurida (1, 8). This genus consists of 27 valid species,
and 15 species of questionable validity (2, 12).
The genus Dirofilaria is divided in two subgenera. The subgenus Dirofilaria
includes Dirofilaria immitis and the subgenus Nochtiella includes Dirofilaria repens
(8).
In European dogs, the most common species of filariae are Dirofilaria
immitis, D. repens and Acanthocheilonema (syn. Dipetalonema) reconditum.
Species found in the subcutis such as Dirofilaria repens or Dipetalonema
reconditum were considered nonpathogenic (3, 9).
D. immitis and D. repens are transmitted by over 60 common mosquito
species. The intermediate hosts of D. reconditum are fleas and lice.
Because dirofilariosis is a zoonotic helminthosis and are imprecisely
diagnosed we proposed to present some pathological manifestations in dogs’
dirofilariosis.

Materials and methods

The dogs were examinated in the Parasitology and Parasitological


diseases and Small Animal Pathology clinics of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine,

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LUCRĂRI ŞTIINłIFICE MEDICINĂ VETERINARĂ VOL. XLII (1), 2009, TIMIŞOARA

Timisoara, Romania. The pathological manifestations were studied on 4 dogs of


different sex, breed and age.
For diagnosis venous blood was collected from domestic dog from Timis
County. Blood samples were collected into 3 ml EDTA tubes from canine patients.
Canine dirofilariosis was diagnosed by identification of microfilariae or specific
antigen testing.
Filarial infection in dogs can be diagnosed through morphological
observation of circulating microfilariae, detection of circulating antigens,
histochemical or immuno-histochemical staining of circulating microfilariae, or
through molecular approaches (3). Microfilariae were detected using direct
examination of fresh blood drop and microfilariae identification was confirmed by
modified Knott test and acid phosphatase stain (7, 14).
Several immunochromatographic kits are commercially available to detect
the presence of adult female circulating antigens in serum, plasma and whole blood
of dogs and cats. Most are very specific, quite sensitive, rapid and easy to be
performed.
Detection of the antigen of sexually mature females in canine blood serum
was performed Speed® DIRO / HEARTWORM for detection of Dirofilaria immitis
adults (18).

Results and discussions

First case. A female, 5 years old, German shepherd dog was come in
Pathology of Small Animals Clinic with fever (40.4 ºC) which do not decreased
below antibiotics. The dog had never been routinely investigate or treated with
heartworm preventatives and do not have antecedents related by outside to town
movements. At blood exam was distinguished microfilaria. By Speed® DIRO /
HEARTWORM antigen of sexually mature females in canine blood serum were
positive for Dirofilaria immitis adults. Thoracic radiographs do not showed
abnormalities.
Second case. In September 2008, at Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Timisoara a Coker American dog was presented. A female, 2 years old, was
hyperthermia, prostration, dyspnoea, hyper salivation, tonsillitis, retropharyngeal
lymphonodular hyperplasia. The temperature was varied between 39.2º C,
morning, and 40.5º C, evening. The increased values of temperature keep on
during antibiotic therapy. The dog was anorexic and presented respiratory signs.
Another sign observed was polyarthritis with pain and joint swelling at all legs
sometime alternatively, and difficult movements.
The dog was tested for Dirofilaria immitis. At smear blood exam were
distinguish microfilariae and at Speed® DIRO / HEARTWORM result was positive.
Third case. A 7 years old, Amstaff breed, male, was presented in our clinic
in January 2009 for routine examination. Though appetite is present the dog loss
the weight, in last two months.

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The dog was taken from a town near to Timisoara and is walked by the
owner on an open field where there are many small water pools.
Following the general examination it was observed only an increased
volume of poplitei lymphonods. At the blood drop examination there were detected
microphylarias and the result of the Speed® DIRO / HEARTWORM test was
positive.
Fourth case. On March 2009 a dog was investigated and there were
present microfilariae at the blood drop test, but Speed® DIRO / HEARTWORM test
the result turned out to be negative. The examined dog is a male of two years of
age with an unknown background. The dog has exhibit no clinical symptoms, is
non-feverish (39.1 – 39.2º C), has a good appetite and is very active.
Clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early
stages, as the number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually
over a period of months and sometimes years and after repeated mosquito bites
(15).
Serological tests for heartworm disease are frequently negative in non-
endemic areas because of the microfilariae belong to species other than D. immitis,
the persistence of microfilaremia after natural or pharmacological death of adult
worms, and the low number of D. immitis adults in the pulmonary arteries of the
host. The presence of a single female and/or one too many males is hardly
detected by these tests (13).
In our study, microfilariae identification was confirmed by acid phosphatase
stain in all four positive samples.
Some authors (4, 7, 10, 11) reported that the clinical evolution of
heartworm disease in dogs is usually chronic. Most infected dogs do not show any
signs of the disease for months or years, depending on many factors such worm
burden, individual reactivity etc.
Recently infected dogs may exhibit no signs of the disease, while heavily
infected dogs may eventually show clinical signs, including a mild, persistent
cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise,
reduced appetite and weight loss (15).
Dogs show no clinical signs of heartworm infection during the first 6 month
post infestation (prepatent period) prior to the worms' maturation, and current
diagnostic tests for the presence of microfilariae or antigens cannot detect
prepatent infections. Rarely, migrating heartworm larvae get "lost" and end up in
unusual sites such as the eye, brain, or an artery in the leg, which results in
unusual symptoms such as blindness, seizures and lameness. But normally, until
the larvae mature and congregate inside the heart, they produce no symptoms or
signs of illness (14, 16).
Less than 25 worms in a dog's heart may cause no symptoms at all, so a
dog can be infected and passing the parasite on to mosquitoes without anyone
knowing there’s anything wrong. If there are 60 or more worms in the heart and
pulmonary artery, there are likely to be circulation problems with damage to the

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heart, liver, and kidneys, and more than a 100 heartworms is associated with blood
circulation blockage (6).
Signs of the disease develop gradually and may begin with a cough
followed by dyspnea, weakness, and occasionally, by lipotimias after exercise or
excitement.
Can often be detected abnormal pulmonary sounds and second heart
sound, cardiac murmurs over the right side of the thorax and abnormal cardiac
rhythm, swelling of the abdomen (and sometimes the legs).
Another signs of the disease such anorexia, weight loss, and dehydration
are usually noted.
Sudden death rarely occurs and usually happens following respiratory
distress or cachexia. In the course of chronic disease, acute signs may
occasionally occur. Severe spontaneous thromboembolism following the natural
death of many heartworms can cause dogs to present acute, life-threatening
dyspnea and hemoptysis.
In small dogs, another common manifestation is ‘‘caval syndrome.’’ (a
syndrome of cardiovascular collapse, caused by large numbers of heartworms in
the right heart and vena cava) (7, 11).
Occasionally adult worms have been observed in the brain where they
invade the lateral ventricle, or in the meningeal arteries with subsequent occlusion.
The clinical course is characterized by intermittent convulsion, blindness, ataxia,
behavioral changes and circling (17).
Dirofilariosis was originally considered a disease of strict veterinary
importance but it has been recognized as an emerging zoonosis (4, 7, 12) and is
necessary to protect the health of animals and people.

Conclusions

 Clinical signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the low


infestations in dogs examined.
 The most infected dogs with chronic evolution of heartworm disease do not
show clinical signs.
 Serological tests for heartworm disease can be negative in non-endemic
areas and that’s why additional methods are compulsory.
 The application of prophylactic measures in dogs throughout the period of
mosquito activity can be decreased incidence and dissemination of
dirofilariosis.

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