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Neosporosis in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Neosporosis is a coccidian protozoon (parasite) of dogs and other animals. It is caused by the organism Neospora caninum. Infection is most commonly transplacental, which means it is transferred from mother to fetus while still in the womb, but ingestion of the infective cyst is the most common mode of transmission in older dogs.

Neospora caninum naturally infects dogs, with puppies being most commonly infected. There is no evidence of breed susceptibility, although there is a higher prevalence in hunting dogs.

What to Watch For

  • Ascending paralysis that starts from the rear and progresses forward
  • Cervical (neck) weakness
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Lack of coordination while walking
  • Seizures
  • Tremor
  • Inflammatory muscle disease
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Inflammation of the skin

    Diagnosis

  • Baseline tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all patients. Changes are variable, depending on the organ system(s) involved.

  • Screening thoracic (chest) and abdominal radiographs (X-rays) are an important part of any baseline workup. Results are variable.

  • Serologic testing (blood tests that measure antibodies or the body's response to an organism) may be helpful in some cases, although a negative value does not rule out neosporosis.

  • A cerebral spinal fluid analysis may be helpful.

  • Biopsy and special stains to identify certain forms of the organism (cysts) are often necessary for a definitive diagnosis, and to differentiate it from other infectious disorders, most commonly, toxoplasmosis.

    Treatment

  • The progression of clinical signs can be arrested by instituting proper therapy early in the disease process. If not treated promptly, death is likely.

  • Proper antibiotic therapy can be curative.

  • Intensive supportive care may be indicated in some cases.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication as directed by your veterinarian. Contact your veterinarian at once if your pet is not responding to therapy and/or getting worse. Return for follow up examination and testing as recommended by your veterinarian.

    Repeated transplacental transmission occurs, so bitches whelping an infected litter should not be re-bred.

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