Canine vector-borne diseases (CVBDs) pose a major health problem in dogs globally, with the potential to cause zoonoses, in particular in developing countries where scientific knowledge on the topic is minimal. Blood samples and ticks were collected from stray dogs in Tamil Nadu, South India to assess the prevalence of CVBD-causing pathogens (Anaplasma spp., Babesia spp., Ehrlichia spp., Hepatozoon spp., filarioids and Leishmania spp.). Of the 230 dogs examined, 229 (99.6%) were infested by ticks (mean intensity, 5.65) with Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato and Rhipicephalus haemaphysaloides being morphologically identified in the 98.3% and 1.7% of the infested dogs, respectively. Overall, the 67.8% (n = 156) of dogs was positive for at least one pathogen with Hepatozoon canis being the most prevalent (37.8%) followed by Anaplasma platys (22.6%), Ehrlichia canis (16.1%) Babesia vogeli (10%), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (0.4%) and Babesia gibsoni (0.4%). Two filarioids (Dirofilaria sp. “hongkongensis” and Brugia malayi, 0.4%) were diagnosed in sampled animals. Co-infection with H. canis and A. platys was the most prevalent (8.3%, P = 0.00001), whilst all animals scored negative for Leishmania spp. Out of 295 ticks analysed, 215 R. sanguineus s.l. (75.4%) and 8 R. haemaphysaloides (88.9%) were positive for at least one pathogen with H. canis as the predominant species (42.5%), followed by A. platys (33.8%), E. canis (16.9%), B. vogeli (3.8%) and A. phagocytophilum (0.3%). Fifty-six dogs (35.9%) harboured the same pathogen as the respective tick specimens, while 29 dogs (18.6%) had a different pathogen. Thirteen sequence types (STs) were identified for H. canis, with ST2 (49.4%) as the most representative in dogs and ST1 (73.5%) in ticks. Similarly, seven STs were found for Anaplasma spp. (i.e., five for A. platys, one for A. phagocytophilum and one for Anaplasma sp.), with ST2 as the most representative in dogs (70.6%) and ST3 (52.5%) in ticks for A. platys. Only one ST was identified for B. vogeli, B. gibsoni, E. canis, D. sp. “hongkongensis” and B. malayi. Regular surveillance and adoption of adequate treatment and control measures are needed to reduce the risk of disease-causing pathogens in stray dogs and of pathogens with zoonotic potential.
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