Objectives: Bartonella infection has been associated with endocarditis in humans, dogs, cats and cattle. In order to evaluate the importance of this pathogen as a possible source of endocarditis in United States military working dogs (MWDs), we performed a retrospective case-control study on 26 dogs with histological diagnosis of culture negative endocarditis (n = 18), endomyocarditis (n = 5) or endocardiosis (n = 3) and 28 control dogs without any histological cardiac lesions.
Methods: DNA was extracted from paraffin embedded cardiac valves and tissues from case and control dogs and submitted to PCR testing with primers targeting the Bartonella gltA gene. PCR-RFLP using four restriction endonucleases and partial sequencing was then performed to determine the Bartonella species involved.
- Nineteen (73%) cases were PCR positive for Bartonella, including B. henselae (8 dogs), B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii (6 dogs), B. washoensis (2 dogs) and B. elizabethae (1 dog).
- Only one control dog was weakly PCR positive for Bartonella.
- Based on the type of histological diagnosis, 13 (72.2%) dogs with endocarditis, 3 (60%) dogs with endomyocarditis and all 3 dogs with endocardiosis were Bartonella PCR positive.
Conclusions: Bartonella sp. Infections were correlated with cardiopathies in US military working dogs. Systemic use of insecticides against ectoparasites and regular testing of MWDs for Bartonella infection seem highly appropriate to prevent such life-threatening exposures.
Dogs are sentinels for human tick-borne diseases and should be a warning shot over the bow. This study clearly shows Bartonella is a huge player in heart issues and should always be considered. Mainstream medicine continues to falsely believe this is a benign infection that will resolve on its own.