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Canine Babesia (babesiosis) is a tick-borne disease caused by a protozoan blood parasite. 

Infection:
Infection occurs when a Babesia infected tick bites a dog and releases Babesia sporozoites into the dog’s bloodstream. A tick must feed for 2-3 days to infect a dog with Babesia. The young Babesia organisms attach to red blood cells, eventually penetrating and making a new home for themselves within. Infected pregnant dogs can spread Babesia to their unborn puppies and dogs can transmit the organism by biting another dog as well.
Because Babesia is a tick-borne infection, it is not unusual for infected dogs to have other tick-borne infections such as Ehrliquia or Riketsia.
While any dog can be infected, young dogs tend to suffer more serious illness. Greyhounds, pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers seem to be most susceptible to infection.

Diagnosis and symptoms:
Babesia infections have a wide range of severity: they can be very mild (dogs may not even show symptoms) or very severe (sometimes fatal). The severity depends mainly on the species of Babesia involved but also on the immune system of the dog. The course of the disease may be cyclical, with periods of symptoms punctuated by times where symptoms are absent. Signs and symptoms may include:

* fever

* weakness

* lethargy

* pale gums and tongue

* red or orange urine

* jaundice (yellow tinge to skin, gums, whites of eyes, etc.)

* enlarged lymph nodes

* enlarged spleen

Testing: Babesia organisms can be seen on a blood smear.

Prevention:
The secret of keeping the dog free of Babesia is good tick control. Check your pet and yourself daily for ticks and remove them. Be particularly thorough in brushing and combing if your pet has been in high weeds or brush. In removing the ticks try not to crush them. The best way I have found to remove them is to grasp the ticks mouth parts as close to the skin as possible with a pair of small tweezers and pull the tick away removing all of the head a small tag of skin. The best prevention are spot-ons that repell ticks (like Pulvex, Frontline, Advantix, etc.) that need to be put every for weeks and anti-repellent collars that have a durability of around 4 months.

Treatment:
Dogs infected with Babesia usually respond to treatment with Imidocarb dipropionate administered twice at 14-day intervals (in Portugal it comes as injectable solution called Imizol). The dose depends on the weight of the dog.

Vaccination:
Vaccine against Babesia is available (produced by Intervet), but it is not consiedered 100 % effective.

 

ATTENTION: these are only general tips, every treatment is on case by case basis so if your dog has this disease you should consult the vet.