Ectoparasite infestation patterns of domestic dogs in suburban and rural areas in Borneo

  • Wells K
  • Beaucournu J
  • Durden L
 et al. 
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Abstract

Domestic dogs, Canis lupus, have been one of the longest companions of humans and have introduced their own menagerie of parasites and pathogens into this relationship. Here, we investigate the parasitic load of 212 domestic dogs with fleas (Siphonaptera) chewing lice (Phthiraptera), and ticks (Acarina) along a gradient from rural areas with near-natural forest cover to suburban areas in Northern Borneo (Sabah, Malaysia). We used a spatially-explicit hierarchical Bayesian model that allowed us to impute missing data and to consider spatial structure in modelling dog infestation probability and parasite density. We collected a total of 1,968 fleas of two species, Ctenocephalides orientis and Ctenocephalides felis felis, from 195 dogs (prevalence, 92%). Flea density was higher on dogs residing in houses made of bamboo or corrugated metal (increase of 40% from the average) compared to timber or stone/compound houses. Host-dependent and landscape-level environmental variables and spatial structure only had a weak explanatory power. We found adults of the invasive chewing louse Heterodoxus spiniger on 42 dogs (20%). The effect of housing conditions was opposite to those for fleas; lice were only found on dogs residing in stone or timber houses. We found ticks of the species Rhipicephalus sanguineus as well as Haemaphysalis bispinosa gp., Haemaphysalis cornigera, Haemaphysalis koenigsbergi, and Haemaphysalis semermis on 36 dogs (17%). The most common tick species was R. sanguineus, recorded from 23 dogs. Tick infestations were highest on dogs using both plantation and forest areas (282% increase in overall tick density of dogs using all habitat types). The infestation probability of dogs with lice and ticks decreased with elevation, most infestations occurred below 800m above sea level. However, the density of lice and ticks revealed no spatial structure; infestation probability of dogs with these two groups revealed considerable autocorrelation. Our study shows that environmental conditions on the house level appeared to be more influential on flea and lice density whereas tick density was also influenced by habitat use. Infestation of dogs with Haemaphysalis ticks identified an important link between dogs and forest wildlife for potential pathogen transmission.

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