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What are Neosporosis?

Neospora caninum is common in dogs, and many dogs go their entire lifetime without even knowing it was there. However, sometimes pregnancy can trigger the protozoa and it may pass to the puppies in the womb and lead to abortion. If the puppies do survive, most of the litter, if not all, will have neosporosis. In puppies, the infestation can be serious within a few days. Paralysis, blindness, hepatitis (yellow eyes and skin), and respiratory failure are some of the signs of neosporosis in your puppy. If you see any of these signs in your dog, you should take your dog to see a veterinary professional right away because if the condition gets worse, the liver damage can be irreversible, central nervous system damage can occur, or he may even die from respiratory failure.

Neosporosis is a serious condition in dogs that is caused by the infestation of a protozoan called Neospora caninum. In a healthy dog, contracting neosporosis may not have any symptoms and your dog may just be a carrier of the parasite. The illness is usually seen in puppies, who contract the neosporosis from their mother. However, if the condition becomes severe or if your dog is older or has a chronic illness, the symptoms may include a skin rash and ulcers, abortion, pneumonia, and progressive paralysis that leads to death. In addition, neosporosis can damage your dog’s liver, causing yellowing of the eyes and skin, swollen abdomen, fever, and a general ill feeling. Early treatment can be life-saving so do not delay in taking your dog to the veterinarian’s office if you suspect he has this condition.

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Symptoms of Neosporosis in Dogs

Some dogs with neosporosis can be carriers and have no symptoms at all but most have at least a few of these common signs:

  • Dermatitis
  • Ulcers in the skin
  • Abortion in pregnant females
  • Damage to the liver
  • Respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia

If the infestation is severe, damage to the central nervous system can create complications such as:

  • Walking in circles
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Confusion
  • Weak muscles
  • Muscle inflammation
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Vision trouble including blurriness or even blindness in severe cases
  • Paralysis of the legs
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Death

Types

  • Neospora caninum is the most common type of neosporosis that affects many species such as dogs, horses, cattle, and sheep
  • Neospora hughesi is a relatively new form of neosporosis that has only been known to affect horses so far

Causes of Neosporosis in Dogs

The cause of neosporosis is feeding your dogs raw meat. This parasite lives in the muscles of cows, deer, and chickens, so if you do not cook the meat you feed your dog, he can contract neospora caninum.

Diagnosis of Neosporosis in Dogs

Those dogs with neosporosis can be definitively diagnosed by your description of symptoms and doing a group of serology tests to determine if your dog has neosporosis. First, a physical examination will be performed, including vital signs, reflexes, and skin assessment. A lameness examination, palpation, and auscultation will all be performed as well. Laboratory tests may include a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to check the DNA, antibody titer to look for antibodies with fluorescent stain, a complete blood count, and biochemical analysis.

The tests will likely indicate high aspartate aminotransferase (AST), creatine kinase (CK), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), protein, and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). Decreased eosinophils, neutrophils, macrophages, lymphocytes, and monocytes are also commonly found. In addition, several muscle tissue samples will be taken for microscopic evaluation.

Additionally, the veterinarian will most likely get some chest and abdominal radiographs (x-rays) to check the lungs for infection and see if the liver has been damaged.

Treatment of Neosporosis in Dogs

There is no cure for neosporosis, but there are medications and physical therapy to control the symptoms. The success of the treatment depends on how soon the neosporosis is diagnosed.

Medication

The most common drug used to treat neosporosis is Clindamycin, which is usually given for four to eight weeks. Puppies with the disease may not make it through treatment once symptoms have been seen. Other drugs that have shown some promise include Ormetoprim and Sulfadimethoxine, Pyrimethamine and Sulfaquinoxaline, and Sulfadoxine and Trimethoprim. These are sulfonamides that have been successful in treating dogs with neosporosis who are not responding to Clindamycin.

Recovery of Neosporosis in Dogs

The prognosis is poor once your dog has shown paralysis in the hind limbs. However, if you catch it early and get treatment, the prognosis is good in healthy dogs. Be sure to follow the instructions given to you by the veterinarian, finish all the medication, and call your veterinarian if your dog is still showing signs of illness after a few weeks.