Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever in Dogs. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: In the United States, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF) in dogs is caused by the spirochete bacteria Borrelia turicatae and Borrelia hermsii, transmitted by Ornithodoros spp. ticks. The hallmark diagnostic feature of this infection is the visualization of numerous spirochetes during standard blood smear examination. Although the course of spirochetemia has not been fully characterized in dogs, in humans infected with TBRF the episodes of spirochetemia and fever are intermittent. OBJECTIVES: To describe TBRF in dogs by providing additional case reports and reviewing the disease in veterinary and human medicine. ANIMALS: Five cases of privately-owned dogs naturally infected with TBRF in Texas are reviewed. METHODS: Case series and literature review. RESULTS: All dogs were examined because of lethargy, inappetence, and pyrexia. Two dogs also had signs of neurologic disease. All dogs had thrombocytopenia and spirochetemia. All cases were administered tetracyclines orally. Platelet numbers improved and spirochetemia and pyrexia resolved in 4 out of 5 dogs, where follow-up information was available. CONCLUSION AND CLINICAL IMPORTANCE: TBRF is likely underdiagnosed in veterinary medicine. In areas endemic to Ornithodoros spp. ticks, TBRF should be considered in dogs with thrombocytopenia. Examination of standard blood smears can provide a rapid and specific diagnosis of TBRF when spirochetes are observed.

published proceedings

  • J Vet Intern Med

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Piccione, J., Levine, G. J., Duff, C. A., Kuhlman, G. M., Scott, K. D., & Esteve-Gassent, M. D.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Piccione, J||Levine, GJ||Duff, CA||Kuhlman, GM||Scott, KD||Esteve-Gassent, MD

publication date

  • July 2016