Delayed diagnosis of fatal pneumonic canine plague: clinical and pathologic features in two naturally infected Colorado dogs. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Plague caused by Yersinia pestis is a highly infectious and potentially fatal zoonotic disease that can be spread by wild and domestic animals. In endemic areas of the northern hemisphere plague typically cycles from March to October, when flea vectors are active. Clinical forms of disease include bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic plague. All clinical forms are uncommonin dogs and the pneumonic form is exceedingly rare. CASE PRESENTATION: Two mixed breed young-adult male domestic dogs presented to Colorado veterinarians with fever and vague signs that progressed to hemoptysis within 24h. Case 1 presented in June 2014, while Case 2 occurred in December 2017. Thoracic radiography of Case 1 and 2 revealed right dorsal and right accessory lobe consolidation, respectively. In Case 1 initial differential diagnoses included pulmonary contusion due to trauma or diphacinone toxicosis. Case 1 was euthanized ~24h post presentation due to progressive dyspnea and hemoptysis. Plague was confirmed 9days later, after the dog's owner was hospitalized with pneumonia. Case 2 was treated as foreign body/aspiration pneumonia and underwent lung lobectomy at a veterinary teaching hospital. Case 2 was euthanized after 5days of hospitalization when bacterial culture of the excised lobe yielded Yersinia pestis. Both dogs had severe diffuse necrohemorrhagic and suppurative pneumonia at post mortem examination. CONCLUSIONS: Both dogs were misdiagnosed due to the atypical lobar presentation of an extremely rare form of plague in a species that infrequently succumbs to clinical disease. Presentation outside of the typical transmission period of plague was also a factor leading to delayed diagnosis in Case 2. Erroneous identification by automated bacterial identification systems was problematic in both cases. In endemic areas, plague should be ruled out early in febrile dogs with acute respiratory signs, hemoptysis, lobar or diffuse pathology, and potential for exposure, regardless of season. Seasonal and geographic distributions of plague may shift with climate change, so vigilance by primary care veterinarians is warranted. Timely submission of samples to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory could expedite accurate diagnosis and reduce potential for human and domestic animal exposure.

published proceedings

  • BMC Vet Res

altmetric score

  • 10.952

author list (cited authors)

  • Schaffer, P. A., Hershkowitz, C. S., Dowers, K. L., Golchanour, J. L., Harris, L. J., Aboellial, T. A., ... Daniels, J. B.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Schaffer, Paula A||Hershkowitz, Connor S||Dowers, Kristy L||Golchanour, Jennifer L||Harris, Lauren J||Aboellial, Tawfik A||Morley, Paul S||Brault, Stephanie A||Pabilonia, Kristy L||Mason, Gary L||House, Jennifer A||Daniels, Joshua B

publication date

  • May 2020