Clinical characteristics of Spirocerca lupi migration in the spinal cord

Orit Chai*, Einat Yas, Ori Brenner, Alicia Rojas, Lilach Konstantin, Sigal Klainbart, Merav H. Shamir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Spirocerca lupi is a nematode infecting dogs mostly in tropical and subtropical areas. Although its typical target is the esophageal wall, aberrant migration is not uncommon, including migration of unknown incidence into the spinal cord. While successful treatment of intraspinal S. lupi (ISSL) infection depends on early diagnosis, tools for definitive ante-mortem diagnosis are unavailable. We therefore aimed at characterizing clinical signs and clinical pathology findings of ISSL in dogs. For that, we analyzed medical records of dogs hospitalized in 2005–2016 presenting with neurological signs consistent with ISSL, which were diagnosed definitively post-mortem. Retrieved information included signalment, medical history, chief complaint, physical and neurological evaluation, neuroanatomical localization at presentation, clinical pathology, imaging findings, treatment, outcome and post-mortem findings. Ten midsize to large breed dogs were included, 7 of which had received prophylactic treatment. In all 10 dogs, onset was acute and neurological deterioration until presentation (2 h–6 d) was fast. Neurological examination localized the lesions within the spinal cord and paresis or paralysis was asymmetric in all dogs. Spinal pain was documented in 9/10 dogs. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis was abnormal in all dogs and was characterized by pleocytosis in 8/10, whereas cytology revealed the presence of eosinophils in all dogs. Advanced imaging excluded spinal cord compression in all dogs tested. Post-mortem examination detected spinal cord migration tract in all cases. Nematodes were found in the spinal cord parenchyma (8/10) or adjacent to it (2/10) in all dogs. A larva was found in the subarachnoid space of one dog and an adult nematode in the thoracic intervertebral artery of another. Esophageal nodules were found in 5/10 dogs. These findings suggest that the combination of sudden onset of acute asymmetric paresis accompanied by pain, presence of eosinophils in the CSF and lack of compressive lesion may serve as sufficient evidence for tentative diagnosis of ISSL in endemic areas.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Aberrant migration
  • Dog
  • Spinal cord
  • Spirocerca lupi
  • Spirocercosis


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