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Babesiosis

By: Dr. Arnold Plotnick

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Canine babesiosis is a tick-borne disease caused by a protozoan blood parasite. The cause of the disease is an organism of the genus Babesia. There are two species of Babesia that can cause disease in the United States: Babesia canis and Babesia gibsoni.

The organism is spread to dogs through the bite of a tick and can infect dogs of all ages, although most infected dogs are less than three years old. In the United States, there is a peak incidence occurring between March and October. Greyhounds have a higher incidence of the disease than other breeds.

Babesiosis mainly affects red blood cells, causing anemia, although many organ systems can be involved, and many complications can arise; disease can be mild, or can be fatal.

What to Watch For

  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Labored breathing
  • Failure to produce urine
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hemoglobinuria (red colored urine)
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Jaundice that appears as a yellow coloration of the gums and whites of the eyes
  • Fever
  • Severe respiratory distress
  • Fast breathing
  • Coughing
  • Blood tinged frothy nasal discharge

    Diagnosis

  • Complete blood count, chemistry panel and urinalysis
  • Evaluation of a blood smear
  • Serology

    Treatment

  • Diminazene aceturate
  • Imidocarb
  • Trypan blue
  • Blood transfusions
  • Supportive care

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer medication as prescribed. Since the disease is spread by ticks, preventing tick exposure is paramount.

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