Do dogs and foxes share pathogens through fleas and ticks?

Backed by David Lang
Raised of $1,760 Goal
Ended on 4/22/23
Campaign Ended
  • $5
  • 1%
  • Finished
    on 4/22/23

About This Project

Dogs can interact with foxes and even share their ticks and pathogens. These agents can generate health risks for wildlife, so it is necessary to determine whether this transmission is indeed occurring between domestic and wild canids in Argentina, and what are the risk factors involved. This is why we will sample both foxes and dogs, analyze their ticks and blood, and attempt to determine if the same pathogens are present in both canids.

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What is the context of this research?

In rural areas of South America, it is very common to keep free-ranging dogs, which favors interactions with wildlife. Indeed, dogs and foxes can harbor the same pathogens even without the need for direct contact. Such is the case of infectious agents transmitted by ticks and fleas. These agents can generate health risks for wildlife affecting their conservation, so it is necessary to determine whether this transmission is indeed occurring between domestic and wild canids in Argentina, and what are the risk factors involved.

What is the significance of this project?

This project can contribute to improving the relationship between humans and wildlife, emphasizing the impact of the lack of permanent enclosures and veterinary controls in dogs. This project focuses on two species of foxes that are not -yet- listed as threatened by the IUCN, but the spatial and genetic proximity between them and dogs allows the circulation of pathogens between these species. Other studies in foxes had shown that the same pathogen haplotypes are present in both canids, suggesting that interspecific transmission is occurring, and that may be detrimental to wildlife health. Since this project aims to improve pet ownership, a series of deworming, vaccinations, and lectures will be planned as a control measure against the dissemination of these pathogens in wildlife.

What are the goals of the project?

The results obtained in this project may be useful in wildlife conservation programs as well as in veterinary clinical practice.

After a month of study, we will determine the molecular prevalence and phylogenetic relationships of vector-borne canine pathogens in at least 80 free-ranging dogs and 50 sympatric wild foxes, to establish whether an interspecific transmission is occurring. Also, we will educate rural dog owners about the importance of confinement and prophylactic measures for their pets for the health of the ecosystems they inhabit.


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The requested items are part of a large-scale project.

The anesthetic drugs are usually expensive and, if I do not obtain these funds, I will have to pay for them with my student grant. Similarly, the necessary elements for the capture and marking of foxes (containment pole, containment cage, identification microchips) are essential to facilitate the work during the development of the sampling protocol of these wild animals.

The supplies for PCR diagnosis are needed to address the pathogen's detection in blood samples from foxes and dogs. This technique is the most reliable when attempting to determine the prevalence of an infectious agent.

The phylogenetic software (Geneious Prime) will be used to analyze the sequences obtained. This will allow the identification of genetically identical pathogens in foxes and dogs, resulting in the inference of interspecific transmission.

Endorsed by

Vector-borne diseases are important for animal conservation. This project will significantly contribute to advance in the knowledge in this field in Argentina.
This is an important and exciting project. Sophia has an excellent scientific background and is familiar with both the field research techniques and lab analyses necessary to carry out the project. She is the best person to investigate this question!

Project Timeline

This work is part of a bigger one. During the initial campaign, we will have sampled part of the animals necessary to achieve our goals. After one year, we will have determined the molecular prevalence of vector-borne pathogens in dogs and sympatric foxes to establish whether transmission is occurring. Also, we will have raised awareness among rural dog owners about the importance of confinement and prophylactic measures of their pets for the health of the ecosystems they inhabit.

Mar 23, 2023

Project Launched

May 15, 2023

Dog and fox sampling (first campaign)

May 24, 2023

DNA extraction from blood samples

May 26, 2023

Molecular detection of pathogens from the blood of foxes/dogs

Jun 12, 2023

Phylogenetic analyses to infer interspecific transmission

Meet the Team

Sophia Di Cataldo
Sophia Di Cataldo


Laboratory of Wildlife Medicine and Endocrinology, Cuyo Institute of Medicine and Experimental Biology (IMBECU) National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET)
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Team Bio

Our lab studies the epidemiology of pathogens transmission between domestic and wild animals using a conservation medicine approach, this is, merging the animal, human, and environmental health.

We count on two doctoral students and two full-time researchers who are excited to resolve the mysteries of vector-borne diseases in canids!

Sophia Di Cataldo

From 2007 to date, I have worked as a field assistant on numerous inter-institutional One-Health projects, where I learned to capture and sample wild mammals. I have a veterinary degree and a Ph.D. in conservation medicine. In 2017 I led a project similar to this one in Chile, where I sampled over 1,500 wild and domestic canids, contributing to wildlife epidemiology and conservation in Latin America. I have vast experience in molecular detection and phylogenetic analyses of infectious agents. I likewise have extensive experience as an informal public lecturer on zoonosis and have published 20 articles in indexed journals.

Additional Information

We will study the presence of, at least, five canine vector-borne agents: Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Babesia, Hepatozoon, and hemoplasma. All these pathogens can affect numerous animals, including dogs, foxes, and even humans.

Project Backers

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  • 1%Funded
  • $5Total Donations
  • $5.00Average Donation
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