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A serological survey of leptospiral antibodies in dogs in New Zealand

Authors: Collins-Emerson JM, Donald JJ, Cave NJ, Jones BR, Benschop J, Squires RA, Midwinter AC, Harland AL
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 98-106, Mar 2013
Publisher: Taylor and Francis


AIM: To investigate the prevalence of titres to four endemic leptospiral serovars in dog sera from the lower half of the North Island, and the South Island of New Zealand submitted to diagnostic laboratories, and to explore the association between the prevalence of seropositive samples to leptospirosis and breed group, age group and sex.

METHODS: Serum samples from 655 dogs residing in the central and lower North Island and from the South Island of New Zealand were sourced from the Massey University Veterinary Teaching Hospital and from submissions to New Zealand Veterinary Pathology in 2005. They were screened by the Microscopic Agglutination Test (MAT) against Leptospira interrogans serovars Copenhageni and Pomona and L. borgpetersenii serovars Hardjo and Ballum. Titres greater or equal to 96 were considered positive. Variables investigated for their association with the prevalence of seropositive samples to leptospirosis included serovar, breed, North vs. South Island, age and sex.

RESULTS: Positive MAT titres to Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni were found in 10.3 % of dogs (95% CI=8.1–12.9), and were more common than positive titres to other leptospiral serovars. Small breeds did not have a lower prevalence of Copenhageni titres than other breeds. Positive titres to Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo were associated with breeds of dogs used as farm working dogs. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of positive leptospiral titres between dogs from the North or South Islands. Dogs greater than 12 years of age were less likely to have positive titres to Leptospira than younger dogs. No association was found between positive titres and sex.

CONCLUSIONS: Breeds of dogs used as farm working were at greater risk of exposure to Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo. Small breeds did not have a lower risk of seropositivity to Copenhageni than farm working breeds. Further study should be undertaken to confirm the prevalence of positive titres to leptospirosis in farm dogs and dogs resident in the South Island.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The risk of dogs being exposed to Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni, and requirement for vaccination against serovar Copenhageni, cannot be determined by geographical location or breed group. Vaccination against Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo is likely to be beneficial in working dogs.

KEY WORDS: Ballum, canine, Copenhageni, dog, Hardjo, Hardjobovis, Leptospira, Leptospirosis, Microscopic Agglutination Test, MAT, New Zealand, Pomona, seroprevalence, serosurvey, survey
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