Dracunculus infections in domestic dogs and cats in North America; an under-recognized parasite? | Academic Article individual record

We reviewed 62 new cases and 18 published reports of Dracunculus infections in domestic dogs and cats to describe the epidemiology of this parasite in dogs and cats in North America. We collected host and parasite data when available, including age, sex, and breed of dog, nematode location in the host, and any clinical signs at presentation and/or description of the apparent lesion. For dogs, infections were noted in six of the AKC breed groups, but none was reported from the toy group or the miscellaneous breed class. Age of infected dogs ranged from 7 months to 19 years (median 4 years; average 5.3 years), and infection rates were similar in male and female dogs. Most nematodes were associated with the distal extremities, but worms were also found in the chest/thorax, abdomen, head, and flank. Although most infected dogs had a single worm, three dogs had two or more worms that were collected from multiple lesions. Three new cat cases, with similar lesions, presentations and seasonality, were detected in Alabama, North Carolina and Texas. Cases were reported from a wide geographic range throughout eastern North America, during every month of the year, but 72% of infections were diagnosed in the late winter to early spring (December to May). All collected worms were larvigerous females which cannot be identified to species based on morphologic characters. Thus, we attempted to amplify and sequence a portion of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene for specific identification. Although 13 worms from 12 cases were available, sequences were obtained for only eight worms from seven cases. These eight worms were D. insignis, a common parasite of raccoons (Procyon lotor) and other primarily carnivorous mammals. Female worms are the most likely to be detected in dogs and cats because male worms do not emerge, parasites should be preserved in ethanol for molecular identification. Although this study used convenience sampling of available data, we found that the parasite is widespread throughout the eastern US and Canada and that Dracunculus infections in dogs are more common than is revealed in published literature. However, more research is needed to understand the epidemiology, including transmission route(s), prevalence, and distribution of this parasite.

author list (cited authors)
Williams, B. M., Cleveland, C. A., Verocai, G. G., Swanepoel, L., Niedringhaus, K. D., Paras, K. L., ... Yabsley, M. J.
publication date
Elsevier bv Publisher
published in
  • Copepod
  • North Carolina
  • Animals
  • Dracunculus
  • Domestic Dog
  • Canada
  • Female
  • Cat Diseases
  • Dracunculus Nematode
  • Guinea Worm
  • Nematode
  • Dogs
  • Texas
  • Dracunculiasis
  • Subcutaneous Parasite
  • Male
  • Dog Diseases
  • North America
  • Alabama
  • Cats
  • Domestic Cat
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