Canine diseases endemic across the Mediterranean include protozoan diseases (Leishmania and Babesiosis), Ehrlichiosis and heartworm. These diseases can be difficult to diagnose and should be considered in Galgos bought into the UK should the clinical signs prompt you or your veterinarian to do so.
A veterinary general practice can carry out routine blood tests which provides information on whether the patient is suffering from anaemia, infection/inflammation, or indications of kidney and liver disease. Urine samples are useful if blood tests reveal kidney problems as it provides important information related to the extent of renal damage. While these tests can be vital for narrowing down the cause of the illness, they are non-specific, revealing the impact of disease instead of offering a definitive diagnosis. For this reason, further testing is required.
One method is by serological testing which detects Leishmania specific antibodies in the blood. Serology results showing high antibody levels from a dog with clinical signs is diagnostic. Unfortunately, since it can take up to 22 months for dogs to produce these antibodies, Leishmaniosis cannot be ruled out in a dog that is clinically well with low antibody levels. In this scenario it is wise to repeat serology annually to monitor antibody levels or to carry out tests which detects leishmania specific DNA, known as a PCR test. Samples from the bone marrow, lymph nodes, skin, blood, or joint fluid can be used for a leishmania PCR.
Babesia species target red blood cells and platelets in the body. As a result, general blood and urine tests would indicate anaemia and red coloured urine. A blood smear can be made by spreading a very fine layer of blood on a glass slide to be analysed under a microscope. But since the babesia species are very small this can be incredibly challenging. Thankfully a PCR test for babesia also exists which allows direct identification of the babesia species from a blood sample.
Visualisation of Ehrlichia species from blood smears are rare but samples from the blood, lymph nodes, the spleen or bone marrow can be used for a PCR test can diagnose E. canis.
Heartworm can spread to dogs from mosquitos that have ingested immature worms, also known as microfilariae. Infected mosquitos can then transmit the disease to other dogs during blood meals.
Currently two tests exist to diagnose canine heartworm from a blood sample. One determines the presence of adult female populations of the worm (the heartworm antigen test) and the other for microfilaria (the modified Knott’s test). Interpretation of these tests can be challenging since various factors including the time since exposure, recent treatment against heartworm, and the proportion of female worms infecting the dog, can cause the tests to have a negative result despite being infected. If both test results are negative but there is a strong suspicion of disease, x-rays and ultrasound of the chest would be indicated.
Greyhounds In Need test for all of these diseases prior to importing Galgos into the UK, but on occasion further testing maybe required after rehoming due to how certain infections behave i.e. Leishmaniosis.
Getika Rathor BVMSci MRCVS
Willett House Veterinary Surgeons