Babesiosis or Babesia infection is a condition spread by ticks and seen in dogs across the US. Today our Charlotte vets explain the symptoms and treatments for Babesiosis and how you can help to protect your dog against tick borne diseases like Babesiosis.
Babesiosis in Dogs
Babesiosis is a disease caused by a family of Babesia organisms that are spread primarily by ticks. These organisms invade and attack the red blood cells in humans, dogs and other mammals. The most common Babesia organisms found in US dogs include Babesia canis and Babesia gibsoni.
Our Charlotte vets most often see cases of Babesiosis in pit bull terriers and greyhounds.
How Babesiosis is Spread
Typically dogs contract Babesiosis through the bite of an infected tick. Although, some studies suggest that infected dogs with open mouth sores can pass on the infection to other dogs through a bite, and infected pregnant females can transmit Babesiosis to their unborn pups. These organisms can also be spread accidentally through the use of tainted blood.
Pit bull terriers tend to develop Babesia gibsoni infections due to dog to dog bites or maternal transmission.
Symptoms of Babesiosis in Dogs
Many dogs with chronic Babesia will be asymptomatic and show no symptoms at all, but it's important to understand that even when symptoms are not evident the dog can spread the disease to other animals or people.
If your pup does contract Babesiosis the symptoms that your dog displays will depend on the type of Babesia that has infected your pet. The most common symptoms of acute Babesiosis include:
Diagnosing Babesia Infections in Dogs
Your vet will conduct a thorough examination of your pooch looking for signs of the disease such as swollen lymph nodes, pale mucous membranes, and an enlarged spleen. If babesiosis is suspected your veterinarian may recommend blood and urine tests to check for signs of anemia, low platelet count, low albumin, or the presence of bilirubinuria.
In some cases Babesia organisms can be seen by doing a simple blood smear, however other diagnostic tests may include fluorescent antibody staining, indirect, immunofluorescence (IFAT), ELISA tests, and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing.
Babesia DNA testing (PCR testing) is often recommended to help your veterinarian establish which type of Babesia organism has infected your pet. This is particularly valuable information because infections by different species require different medications to treat the disease effectively.
Babesiosis Treatment in Dogs
When it comes to Babesiosis treatment for dogs, most vets take a 3 pronged approach.
- Antiprotozoal medications can be prescribed to help eliminate the parasite from your pet's bloodstream.
- Blood transfusions may be used to treat anemia in dogs.
- Further supportive treatments will be provided to address any complications or side effects of the condition such as oxygen therapy to treat respiratory issues, or anti-nausea medication to help prevent vomiting.
Imidocarb dipropionate injections are sometimes given to dogs infected with Babesia depending on the strain your pooch is infected with.
A combination of atovaquone (a quinone antimicrobial medication) and azithromycin (antibiotic) may be prescribed as a treatment for dogs infected with Babesia gibsoni.
Prognosis for Dogs with Babesiosis
The majority of Babesiosis cases in dogs are not caught in the early stages, meaning that the disease is fairly progressed by the time treatment begins. How well your dog recovers from the condition will depend upon which systems are affected (what side-effects your dog is experiencing due to the infection), and so the prognosis is generally guarded.
Dogs that survive an initial Babesia infection may remain infected but asymptomatic for a fairly long period of time, then suffer a relapse. Dogs with a chronic (symptom-free or very mild symptoms) infection may still be able to spread the disease to other animals and people.
Protecting Your Dog Against Babesiosis
Treatment for Babesiosis in dogs can be expensive, so prevention where possible is essential!
Keeping your dog on year-round tick prevention medication can be an effective way to reduce your dog's risk of contracting a variety of tick borne diseases including Babesiosis, Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasmosis.
Checking your dog daily for ticks, and correctly removing any parasites you find, can also help to prevent tick borne diseases since it typically takes 48 hours or longer for Babesia transmission to occur once the tick begins feeding on your pup.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.