Canine babesiosis and ehrlichiosis are important tick-borne infections in South Africa. Many South African general veterinary practitioners perceive co-infection with Ehrlichia spp. as a common occurrence in dogs with babesiosis. Studies about the prevalence of co-infection in South African dogs are lacking. This retrospective study aimed to determine the prevalence of Ehrlichia co-infection in dogs with babesiosis. Additionally, the predicative value of specific haematological variables for co-infection was evaluated. The study population consisted of 205 dogs diagnosed with canine babesiosis presented to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital (OVAH) in 2006 and between 2011 and 2013. The Babesia-infected dogs were grouped based on presence or absence of an Ehrlichia spp. co-infection. Ehrlichia spp. co-infection was confirmed using polymerase chain reaction. Positive and negative predictive values (PPVs and NPVs) of leukopenia or thrombocytopenia for co-infection were also calculated. The prevalence of Babesiaspp. and Ehrlichia spp. co-infection in this cohort of dogs was 2%. In the babesiosis dogs, the PPV of leukopenia for co-infection with Ehrlichia spp. was 1.3%, and the NPV 97.4%. Similarly, the PPV and NPVs of thrombocytopenia for co-infection were 2.1% and 100%, respectively. Co-infection with Ehrlichia spp. was a rare occurrence in dogs with babesiosis presented to the OVAH. Normal leukocyte or platelet counts confidently ruled out the presence of concurrent ehrlichiosis in this cohort of dogs. However, the diagnosis of Ehrlichia co-infection based on the presence of thrombocytopenia or leukopenia would have been associated with false positive results in more than 97.4% of cases.
Keywords: South Africa; babesiosis; dog; ehrlichiosis.