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In 2016, the American Kennel Club (AKC) launched its Canine Health Foundation (CHF) Tick-Borne Disease Research Initiative, and the research is continuing this year. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the challenge to collect $250,000 in donations for this initiative, matched dollar-for-dollar by the AKC, was reached in 2016 and again in 2017. Putting these funds right to work has resulted in the awarding of seven new grants to date. It is important to examine why this type of research is critical for the sustained health of dogs and their humans.

Tick-borne diseases are a growing nationwide threat. They occur when ticks infected with a pathogen bite a dog or human and transmit the pathogen to the host. It does not take long for some of the diseases to be passed to the host; some transmissions take place in as little as 3-to-6 hours after the initial bite. To combat these diseases, it is important to learn the current best practice for prevention, diagnostics, and treatments. The most important tick-borne diseases that affect dogs include ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, hepatozoonosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, hemotropic mycoplasmosis, and Lyme disease. Recent shifts in tick populations and the expanded geographical range of some species of ticks are believed to be the result of a combination of climate change, host animal migration, and man-made changes to the environment. Changes in tick behavior that make them more likely to encounter potential hosts have also been attributed to climate change.

In 2017, the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases and the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine published two new research articles resulting from CHF-funded grants.The first publication, titled “Investigating the Adult Ixodid Tick Populations and Their Associated Anaplasma, Ehrlichlia, and Rickettsia Bacteria at a Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Hotspot in Western Tennessee” used varying collection methods to capture adult ticks across Tennessee and assess them for the presence of different disease-causing pathogens, including anaplasma, ehrlichlia, and rickettsia. This publication resulted from CHF acorn grant 01894-A.

Another publication, entitled “Prevalence of Vector-Borne Pathogens in Southern California Dogs with Clinical and Laboratory Abnormalities Consistent With Immune-Mediated Disease,” resulted from CHF support for grant 01900-A. This study concluded that serology and PCR testing enhances the detection of infection by vector-borne pathogens such as rickettsia, ehrlichia, bartonella, babesia, borrelia, and anaplasma in dogs that have clinical signs of immune-mediated disease. These findings will allow veterinarians to better distinguish vector-borne diseases from immune-mediated disorders, leading to improved diagnosis and treatment. The lead investigator for this grant and publication, Linda Kidd DVM, PhD was also awarded one of the 2016 CHF Tick-Borne Disease Initiative grants (02285-A). Dr. Kidd will be presenting on this topic in a live VetVine webinar entitled “Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA): Underlying Disease Screening in Dogs” on Aug. 22, 2018 at 8 p.m. ET.

CHF remains committed to research that will help to build a better understanding of the growing and shifting patterns of tick-borne diseases in dogs. A call for new research proposals to CHF will happen in Spring 2018. The current grants that have been awarded will continue to advance the understanding of tick-borne diseases to help keep our family members, both canine and human, healthy.