Do vector-borne infections contribute to laboratory test abnormalities common in the Greyhound?

08/15/2022
Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

Platelet and white blood cell counts are normally lower in Greyhounds compared to other dog breeds or mixed breeds. Protein in the urine is also considered normal only in Greyhounds. But these laboratory abnormalities can be seen in dogs affected by vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and more. Could these accepted “normal” Greyhound values actually be caused by underlying vector-borne infections?

AKC Canine Health Foundation funded investigators at the Western University of Health Sciences analyzed laboratory results from 58 Greyhounds to see what influence vector-borne infections have on the results of these common blood and urine tests. They studied two groups of Greyhounds with different pedigrees and living conditions – retired racing Greyhounds, which were commonly exposed to ticks in the kennel environment, and AKC registered show-bred Greyhounds. Their goals were to:
1)      compare the prevalence of vector-borne infections between these two groups,
2)      evaluate if these accepted laboratory abnormalities are similar in each group, and
3)      assess if vector-borne disease exposure is associated with these abnormalities.

Results of this pilot study were recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine and demonstrate that there is more to learn about these breed-specific laboratory abnormalities.

  • Only 14% of the dogs studied had evidence of exposure to or active infection with a vector-borne disease. This is much lower than previous reports. There was no significant difference in infection rate between retired racing and show-bred Greyhounds, although the retired racing dogs were more likely to be infected with multiple organisms.

  • None of the dogs studied had a low platelet count. Investigators suggest that this is due to the low rate of vector-borne infections in this group.

  • Protein in the urine was common in both retired racing and show-bred Greyhounds. This finding was not influenced by exposure to vector-borne infection.

The unexpectedly low rate of vector-borne infections in the Greyhounds studied is likely due to better tick prevention and more routine testing and treatment for such diseases. While that’s good news for these specific dogs, studying larger numbers of Greyhounds is needed to determine the influence of vector-borne infections on common laboratory test abnormalities. Finally, veterinarians should remember to screen for clinically relevant vector-borne diseases in Greyhounds with low platelets, low white blood cells, or protein in the urine, even though these findings are considered normal for this breed.

Learn more about AKC Canine Health Foundation funded research on vector-borne disease at www.akcchf.org/ticks.

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