What is Neosporosis?
Neosporosis is the disease caused by the protozoan parasite Neospora Caninum. This disease has been recognised in dogs, cattle, horses and other animals, but the dog is the definitive host (an animal that a parasite requires in order to fully mature). This disease is best known for causing loss of pregnancy in cows, especially on farms with dogs.
How does a dog become infected with Neospora Caninum?
Infection with this parasite occurs through ingesting infected cattle, and it is likely that consuming raw meat diets, chickens and a variety of wild animals also contribute to a dog becoming infected.
What symptoms would my dog have if infected with this parasite?
Some dogs do not show any signs of infection, but those unlucky enough to display symptoms may have the following:
- Puppies typically develop paralysis of their limbs, in particular the back legs. This paralysis progresses and can lead to rigid muscle contractions.
- Adult dogs may display neurological signs such as brain and spinal cord inflammation (which may show itself as wobbliness, weakness of the limbs, collapse, head tremors, circling, seizures), pneumonia, hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum – abdominal wall).
How can my vet diagnose Neosporosis?
The symptoms of Neosporosis are similar to many other disease processes, so it may go undiagnosed, but should always be on the list of potential diseases for your vet to rule in or out. Tests such as biopsies, PCR testing (polymerase chain reaction) and serum antibodies may be useful in diagnosing Neosporosis.
My dog is positive for Neosporosis – Can they be treated? Will they recover?
Sadly, in young puppies diagnosed with this disease, the outlook is not good, as their symptoms tend to much more severe than adult dogs. Adult dogs can respond well to a specific class of antibiotic drugs and anti-protozoal drugs, especially if their symptoms are not severe.
Preventative measures – What can I do?
Prevention is better than cure, and as information on this parasite and disease process is still not 100% fully understood, it may prove difficult to prevent your dog from coming into contact with it. Also, there is no vaccine available for cattle or dogs to prevent an infection with the parasite. With the knowledge that it is has been transmitted to dogs through infected meat, it is best to keep dogs away from cattle, avoid feeding raw meat particularly beef, chicken and deer, and if your dog displays any symptoms get them seen by your vet ASAP.