Purdue Veterinary Teaching Hospital treats dog with rare infectious disease

A first for diagnosis and treatment at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Purdue.

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Spice, a 2-year-old Australian heeler, adopted from an Oklahoma shelter by an Indiana woman, developed a high fever and seemed to suffer tremendous pain not long after arriving at her forever home.

Spice’s owner, Joyce Rosenbrock, brought her to the Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where veterinarians discovered that she had a very rare infectious disease caused by Hepatozoon americanum protozoa.

“It’s a disease not seen here in Indiana,” said Andrew Woolcock, DVM, DACVIM (SAIM), assistant professor of small animal internal medicine at Purdue University. “Spice’s unique set of symptoms, along with her travel history, made this rare disease a top suspect in her case and it turned out to be just that.”

Dogs contract this organism after ingesting a tick that contains the protozoa, said Dr. Woolcock, and added that what makes this disease unique is because it’s not transmitted via bite, like most tick-borne diseases.

“It is a disease that can be fatal if left untreated, but Spice got here in time and we were able to treat her,” he said.

This is the first time that this disease has been diagnosed and treated at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Purdue, said Woolcock.

“It is a disease primarily seen in the Gulf Coast states in the South and, actually, only about 15 states in the United States have reported seeing this disease,” he said.

Doctors treated Spice with a combination of antimicrobials, similar to those used to treat malaria in people. Spice’s fever and pain resolved within a few days, but it may take more than a year for her to be fully clear of the organism.

Woolcock says that owners, regardless of where they live, should be vigilant about using a monthly tick and flea preventative for every pet in the home, said Wookcock.

Allison Kendall, DVM, a resident in internal medicine, and Rachel Kohanov, a fourth-year veterinary student, assisted in the case.

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