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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Canine Babesiosis




Condition Overview

This is an uncommon disease caused by a protozoan that destroys red blood cells, producing hemolytic anemia. Outside the United States, the disease is found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. For reasons unknown, the Greyhound is particularly susceptible to babesiosis.


Most infections in dogs are subclinical. In dogs with acute illness, the signs are fever, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and abnormal blood tests indicative of hemolytic anemia. The signs of anemia are shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, and pale gums and tongue. The bone marrow and liver can also be affected.


One mode of transmission is by the bite of a brown dog tick. Natural hosts of this tick are various wild animals, particularly the white-footed mouse and the white tailed deer. Because these animals are also implicated in Lyme disease, both diseases can occur at the same time. Babesiosis can also be transmitted by blood transfusions from infected animals.


Diagnosis is contingent upon finding the protozoan in blood smears. An IFA serum antibody test is also available.


Imidocarb is the only drug currently effective against canine babesiosis.


Prevent infection by controlling ticks. Keep grass and weeds trimmed below ankle height, as ticks will position themselves off the ground on vegetation. Remove brushy cover and rock piles, secure trash can lids, relocate wood piles and bird feeders away from the home. These steps will reduce the instance of tick carrying rodents being attracted to your property. Stick to trails while on hikes and avoid the longer grasses where ticks tend to hide.

Ticks must attach themselves for 5-20 hours before they are capable of transmitting infection. Accordingly, a daily inspection with removal of ticks will prevent many dogs from being infected. Ticks like being warm and protected, so pay special attention to the areas under your pet's legs and in or around the ears.

Treating a yard with tick control agents will help reduce the occurrence of ticks. Frontline Plus, Advantix, and Advantage all help to control flea and tick infestations.


Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet may be infected with this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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