Babesiosis is a serious tick-borne disease spread by ticks which carry Babesia species – a parasite similar to malaria which lives inside red bloods cells. This was previously not a problem for dogs in this country however due to no longer having to treat dogs entering this country for ticks and relaxation in quarantine rules the disease has now been imported. Recent outbreaks have occurred in Essex. Clinical signs tend to be most common in puppies or younger dogs; however adult dogs are also at risk, particularly if they are immunosuppressed or ill for another reason. Dogs can also become carriers of the disease – meaning they remain infected even once signs of the disease have gone.
- Babesiosis is transmitted by ticks and causes damage to dog’s red blood cells and vessels.
- The ticks become infected by feeding on infected dogs and then pass the disease on from their salivary glands when they feed on the next dog.
- Ticks can feed for up to 3 days before they transmit the infection.
- Dogs can die within a day of the appearance of clinical signs.
- Recognition of signs –all of these are quite vague signs and can be pointers towards many diseases but a history of tick attachment is important to mention.
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Pale gums/mouth ulcers
- Increased respiratory rate
- Discoloured urine
- Swelling of the head or legs or lameness/stiffness
- Neurological signs e.g. incoordination, seizures.
- Sudden death
- Blood tests – including looking for the parasites within the blood and urine tests
Early treatment is very important so monitoring your dog very closely for any signs of unusual behaviour or signs of illness are vital. Injections of drugs, intravenous fluid therapy or blood transfusions may be required in severe cases
Prevention is key with this potentially fatal but avoidable disease. Various products are available that prevent ticks but the products that we stock and are currently recommending are:
- Seresto collars are worn for 8 months at a time and provide protection against ticks before they are able to transit the disease. This is safe to be used at the same time as advocate.
- Advantix is a spot on solution which also provides protection against ticks before they are able to transmit the disease. This must be used at least 14 days apart from any other spot on medications e.g. advocate.
- Check for and remove any ticks using tick hooks as soon as one is noticed on your dog. Ideally you should check your dog after every walk but at least once a day.