Babesiosis is currently one of the most dangerous diseases in dogs. As a result of infection, single-celled parasites (most commonly Babesia canis) destroy the red blood cells in the dog. This results in severe anaemia and jaundice. The clinical picture of babesiosis is somewhat similar to that of malaria in humans. The disease occurs throughout Europe, but with varying severity in different parts of the country. The parasite is transmitted to the dog by meadow ticks (Dermacentor reticulatus) and dog ticks (Rhiphicephalus sanguineus).
When are dogs most likely to become infected?
It can be said that nowadays there is a risk practically anytime and anywhere in the country, and not only in spring and summer when ticks are most active, but increasingly in late autumn and winter.
How does infection occur?
Infection with babesiosis does not occur immediately after a tick bite. It takes the tick about 48 hours to infect the dog with the protozoan tick. However, the first symptoms do not appear until 5-7 days after the bite, but the disease can take several weeks to develop. Having contracted babesiosis does not give immunity. Dogs can contract babesiosis almost every year if appropriate protective measures are not taken.
What are the symptoms of babesiosis?
Depending on the number of protozoa and the immune status of the dog in question, the disease may manifest itself in different ways. Usually, the first symptom is a high fever (even up to 42°C), the dog becomes apathetic, wobbly, sleep more, tires easily, does not want to play and may have an increased thirst with a lack of appetite. The dog rarely has a dry nose. The only sure way to tell if a dog has a fever is to take its temperature.
Why is babesiosis dangerous?
During the disease, the red blood cells break down rapidly, resulting in jaundice and severe anaemia. One to two days after the first symptoms of infection, blood-coloured (or chocolate-brown) urine appears, containing large amounts of haemoglobin from the damaged blood cells. Multi-organ failure may occur as a consequence of untreated babesiosis. Documented complications include thrombocytopenia, disseminated intravascular coagulation, acute renal failure, liver damage, skeletal muscle breakdown, pulmonary oedema, central nervous system disorders, pancreatitis, decreased blood pressure, cardiac disorders, and decreased blood glucose, decreased blood oxygen levels and metabolic acidosis.
Is babesiosis curable?
When recognised early, babesiosis is usually relatively easy to treat. Any changes in your dog’s behaviour must be a reason to contact your vet to confirm or rule out the disease. Waiting „for the dog to get over it” can be extremely dangerous.
How to prevent babesiosis?
There is no 100% protection against the protozoan itself. It is best to prevent tick bites, as they can also infect your dog with other diseases. Ask your vet about the most suitable ways for your dog to protect itself from a tick infestation.