Infectious diseases in dogs rescued during dogfighting investigations

Research Findings

It was once the case that dogs seized in dogfighting busts were routinely euthanized. Today, many such dogs are being saved, so an exploration of common infectious and other diseases of fighting dogs may lead to better health for the rescued dogs, as well as protection of other dogs from infectious disease risks.

In a study published in the May 2016 issue of The Veterinary Journal, researchers from the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, IDEXX Laboratories, and the UF Department of Health Outcomes and Policy identified Babesia gibsoni, Candidatus Mycoplasma haemocanis, heartworm, and Ancylostoma as the most common infections.

Anemia associated with B. gibsoni infection was also identified.

In the study abstract, the authors wrote:

Pit bull heritage and dogfighting are known risk factors for B. gibsoni infection, possibly via blood transmission from bites and vertical transmission. Hemotropic mycoplasmas have a similar risk pattern.


Empirical care for dogs from dogfighting cases should include broad-spectrum internal and external parasiticides and monitoring for anemia. Dogfighting case responders should be prepared for mass screening and treatment of B. gibsoni and heartworm infections and should implement protocols to prevent transmission of infectious and zoonotic diseases in the shelter and following adoption.


Former fighting dogs and dogs with possible dog bite scars should not be used as blood donors due to the risk of vector-borne pathogens that can escape detection and for which curative treatment is difficult to document.

The study abstract is available at the link below; subscribers can read the complete study for free, while non-subscribers can access it for a fee, at the same link.

S.H. Cannon, J.K. Levy, S.K. Kirk, P.C. Crawford, C.M. Leutenegger, J.J. Shuster, J. Liu, R. Chandrashekar, Infectious diseases in dogs rescued during dogfighting investigations, The Veterinary Journal, Volume 211, May 2016, Pages 64-69, ISSN 1090-0233,