Canine spirocercosis: Clinical, diagnostic, pathologic, and epidemiologic characteristics

Michal Mazaki-Tovi, Gad Baneth*, Itamar Aroch, Shimon Harrus, Philip H. Kass, Tomer Ben-Ari, Gila Zur, Izhak Aizenberg, Hylton Bark, Eran Lavy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


The nematode Spirocerca lupi is a parasite of dogs with beetles of several species serving as intermediate hosts. The medical records of 50 dogs diagnosed with spirocercosis at the Hebrew University Veterinary Teaching Hospital (HUVTH) in Israel during 1991-1999 were retrospectively reviewed and compared to a control group (n=100). There was a seven-fold increase in the annual number of dogs diagnosed with spirocercosis during these years while the hospital caseload increased by 80%, indicating an emerging outbreak of this infection. Dogs from the greater Tel Aviv area were at the highest risk of being diagnosed with spirocercosis with 74% of the cases originating from this region compared to only 17% of the controls. The disease appeared to have a primarily urban pattern of distribution with a significantly higher percentage (P=0.025) of dogs from cities versus rural areas, as compared to the control group. Sixty-two percent of the cases were diagnosed during the colder months of December through April. The median age of infected dogs was 5 years, with dogs 1 year old or younger at the lowest risk of being diagnosed with spirocercosis. Large breeds were at a higher risk of infection in comparison to small breeds and the Labrador Retriever was significantly over represented (P=0.027) in the study group compared to the control population. The most common signs were vomiting or regurgitation (60%), pyrexia (24%), weakness (22%), respiratory abnormalities (20%), anorexia (18%), melena (18%) and paraparesis (14%). A caudal esophageal mass was identified by radiography in 53% of the dogs and spondylitis of the thoracic vertebrae in 33%. Fecal flotation was positive for S. lupi eggs in 80% of the dogs, and endoscopy was found to be the most sensitive diagnostic procedure and allowed diagnosis in 100% of the examined dogs. Fifty-three percent of the dogs were anemic and creatine kinase (CK) activities were elevated in 54%. Necropsy of 14 dogs revealed esophageal or gastric granulomas in 13 dogs, and an esophageal osteosarcoma in a single animal. Aortic aneurysms were found in six (43%) dogs. Out of 24, 15 dogs (63%) for which follow-up information was available died or were euthanized within 1 month of admission. The case-fatality rate decreased toward the end of the study period when improved therapy with avermectins became available.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)235-250
Number of pages16
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2 Aug 2002


  • Dog
  • Israel
  • Spirocerca lupi
  • Spirocercosis


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