Canine babesiosis, an old acquaintance

Babesiosis is an endemic disease in Galicia, being one of the most diagnosed canine diseases in the small animal clinic in our region. Even so, there are many pet owners who have not yet heard of it. This disease is caused by various microorganisms of the Babesia genus and is transmitted through tick bites. Ticks become infected in the environment, and upon biting an animal transmit the microorganism directly into the host’s bloodstream.

Canine babesiosis produces a clinical picture characterized mainly by a febrile syndrome and haemolytic anemia: the animal presents fever and weakness. The parasite, upon entering the bloodstream, enters the red blood cells causing their lysis or breakage. This causes the characteristic symptoms: paleness of the mucous membranes and hemoglobinuria (pigments from red blood cells appear in the urine, changing from a normal yellow color to a brownish color). Although anemia is the most characteristic of this infection, complications can occur depending on the Babesia species involved, the patient’s immune status, age, and the presence or absence of concurrent diseases. For this reason, it can vary from a disease with a more or less mild presentation, to presenting a serious condition that supposes the death of the animal. The most frequently observed complications are acute renal failure and jaundice due to liver problems (the animal will present yellow mucous membranes).

There is specific treatment but its effectiveness depends on the previously mentioned factors, as well as the time elapsed since the onset of the disease and its application. For the diagnosis of the disease, veterinarians rely on the patient’s symptoms (paleness of the mucous membranes, apathy, weakness, fever, dark-colored urine…), relying on the results obtained in a blood test that often guides us not to only in the diagnosis but also in the prognosis of the disease (we see the degree of anemia, if there is liver and kidney involvement, if a blood transfusion is necessary or not…).

Taking into account the high percentage of ticks with Babesia in our region, animal owners are advised to properly protect against them, in order to prevent the disease. There are multiple products on the market for this function: pipettes, pills, sprays, necklaces… with a variable duration of effect. With the climate change we are experiencing today, these parasites are active most of the year, making constant protection against them necessary. At the veterinary clinic we can advise you which method is best suited for your pet and how often you should apply it.

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