Ocular manifestations of natural canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia canis): a retrospective study of 90 cases


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Objective  To investigate the spectrum, prevalence and treatment response rate of ocular manifestations associated with natural canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME) due to Ehrlichia canis.

Methods  The medical records of 90 dogs that were admitted for primary ocular problems and reacted positive for E. canis serum antibodies were reviewed. All the dogs were treated with oral doxycycline. In 79 dogs, a combination of systemic corticosteroids and/or topical anti-inflammatory, mydriatics/cycloplegics and antibacterial agents were applied.

Results  The dogs ranged from 0.5 to 15 years in age; 55 were male and 35 female. A total of 19 breeds were represented. In the majority of dogs, ocular abnormalities were noticed in conjunction with other CME-induced clinical signs. In 30/90 dogs, ophthalmic signs were the sole presenting complaint. Unilateral (22/90, 24.5%) and bilateral (68/90, 75.5%) uveitis was the most common ophthalmic diagnosis and was classified as anterior, posterior or panuveitis in 58 (64.5%), 8 (8.9%) and 24 (26.6%) of the dogs, respectively. Bilateral uveitis was significantly more common than unilateral uveitis (P < 0.0001), and anterior significantly more common than posterior uveitis (P < 0.0001) or panuveitis (P < 0.0001). In addition, corneal ulceration (12/90, 13.3%), necrotic scleritis (10/90, 11.1%), low tear production (8/90, 8.9%) and orbital cellulitis (3/90, 3.3%) were seen. Of the 45 (50%) dogs with a satisfactory follow-up, 25 (55.5%), 11 (24.5%), and 9 (20%) showed complete, partial and poor response to treatment, respectively. The number of dogs exhibiting complete resolution of the ocular manifestations was significantly higher than those with partial (P < 0.0001) or poor (P < 0.0001) response.

Conclusions  CME should be considered a major differential for a wide range of ocular manifestations exhibited by dogs residing in the endemic areas of the disease. Anterior bilateral uveitis appears to be the most prevalent ocular lesion and a favorable outcome to systemic and topical treatment may be expected in the majority of the affected dogs.