The Causes of Canine Myocarditis and Myocardial Fibrosis Are Elusive by Targeted Molecular Testing: Retrospective Analysis and Literature Review

Alex Molesan, Laura Goodman, Jordan Ford, Samantha J. Lovering, Kathleen Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Myocarditis can cause death or permanent heart damage. As epidemiologic and etiopathologic data for canine myocarditis are lacking, we performed a retrospective study using nucleic acid extracted from archived (2007 to 2015) tissues from myocarditis cases and control dogs without myocardial lesions. Heart tissue from pediatric/juvenile and adult dogs was tested with a comprehensive panel of conventional and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays targeting recognized agents of canine myocarditis based on a literature review and informed by the comparative epidemiology of human myocarditis. The PCR screen, which included canine parvovirus 2 (CPV-2), canine distemper virus, canine herpesvirus, Borrelia spp, West Nile virus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, pneumovirus, respiratory coronavirus, influenza virus, Bartonella spp, Rickettsia spp, Mycoplasma spp, and Neospora caninum, did not detect agents in 35 of 66 cases (53%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 41%–65%) and was frequently negative in adults (21/26); by comparison, agents were not detected in 27 of 57 controls (47%; 95% CI, 35%–60%). Canine distemper virus, herpesvirus, adenovirus, coronavirus, parainfluenza virus, Mycoplasma haemocanis, and N. caninum were occasionally detected in both cases and controls; thus, PCR detection was not considered to indicate causation. We previously reported that CPV-2 continues to be associated with myocarditis in young dogs despite widespread vaccination; in adults, CPV-2 was detected in 2 of 26 cases and 4 of 22 controls. As several agents were similarly detected in cases and controls, it is unclear if these are cardiopathogenic, incidental, or latent. West Nile virus was detected at the analytic limit in 1 adult case. We did not detect Borrelia spp, Bartonella spp, Rickettsia spp, or influenza A virus in the myocarditis cases. These data demonstrate the limitations of current targeted diagnostic tests and the need for additional research to identify unknown agents and develop testing strategies for canine myocarditis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-777
Number of pages17
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Veterinary


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