Treatment for Babesiosis in Dogs

Babesiosis or Babesia infection is spread by ticks and found in dogs and other mammals across the United States. Today our North Memphis vets explain the symptoms and treatments for Babesiosis and how you can help to prevent your dog from contracting this serious disease.

Babesiosis in Dogs

Babesiosis is a predominantly tick-borne disease caused by a family of Babesia organisms that invade and attack the red blood cells in mammals, (including humans and dogs). In the US the most common Babesia organisms found in dogs include Babesia canis and Babesia gibsoni.

Our North Memphis vets most often see cases of Babesiosis in greyhounds and pit bull terriers.

How Dogs Get Babesiosis or a Babesia Infection

Babesia organisms are typically spread to dogs through the bite of an infected tick. That said, some studies suggest that infected dogs with open mouth sores can pass on the infection to other dogs through a bite, and infected pregnant females can transmit babesiosis to their unborn puppies.

In the case of pit bull terriers, Babesia gibsoni infection is most often due to maternal transmission or dog to dog bites. 

Tainted blood transmitted accidentally can also lead to Babesia infection in dogs.

Symptoms of Babesiosis in Dogs

Symptoms don't always appear in dogs with chronic Babesia (asymptomatic), however even when symptoms are not evident the dog could spread the disease to other pets or people.

The symptoms that your pup displays will depend on the type of Babesia that has infected your pup, however, the most common symptoms of acute Babesia include: 

  • Weakness
  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Dark red or orange urine. 

How a Babesia Infections are Diagnosed

Your vet will examine your pooch for symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, pale mucous membranes, and an enlarged spleen. If babesiosis is suspected your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing such as blood and urine tests to look for signs of anemia, low platelet count, low albumin, or the presence of bilirubinuria.

In some cases, Babesia organisms can be spotted doing a simple blood smear, however other diagnostic tests may include fluorescent antibody staining, indirect, immunofluorescence (IFAT), ELISA tests, and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing.

Babesia DNA testing (PCR testing) is often recommended to help your veterinarian to pinpoint which type of Babesia organism has infected your dog. This is especially valuable information since infections by different species require different medications to treat the condition effectively.

Treatment for Babesiosis in Dogs

Babesiosis treatment in dogs is typically a 3 pronged approach.

  1. Antiprotozoal medications can be prescribed to help eliminate the parasite from your pup's bloodstream.
  2. Blood transfusions may be used to treat anemia in dogs.
  3. Further supportive care will be provided to treat the complications or side effects of the condition such as oxygen therapy to treat respiratory issues, or anti-nausea medication to help prevent vomiting.

imidocarb dipropionate injections are sometimes given to dogs infected with Babesia depending on the strain your pup is infected with. 

A combination of atovaquone (a quinone antimicrobial medication) and azithromycin (antibiotic) may be prescribed as a treatment for dogs infected with Babesia gibsoni.

Prognosis for Dogs with Babesiosis

Unfortunately, by the time most cases of Babesiosis have been diagnosed the disease if fairly progressed.

How well your dog recovers from the condition will depend upon which systems are affected (what side-effects your dog is experiencing due to the infection), and so the prognosis is generally guarded.

Dogs that survive an initial Babesia infection may remain infected but asymptomatic for a fairly long period of time, then suffer a relapse. Dogs with a chronic (symptom-free or very mild symptoms) infection could still spread the disease to other animals.

Preventing Babesiosis in Dogs

Treatment for Babesiosis in dogs can be expensive, so prevention where possible is essential! When it comes to protecting your pooch against babesiosis, keeping your dog on year-round tick prevention medication can be an effective way to prevent a wide range of tick-borne diseases including Babesiosis, Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Checking your dog daily for ticks, and correctly removing any parasites you find, can also help to prevent tick-borne diseases since it takes a minimum of 48 hours for the Babesia transmission to occur once the tick begins feeding on your pet.

How Wellness Plans Help Prevent Tick-Borne Diseases

At Stage Road Animal Hospital in North Memphis, our Pet Wellness Plans include parasite protection against ticks, as well as a host of other annual services to keep your dog healthy and happy. Find out more about our Wellness Plans HERE.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think that your dog may be suffering from a Babesia infection? Contact our vets at Stage Road Animal Hospital today to book an appointment for your pet. Our vets have been offering compassionate care for Memphis dogs and cats since 1974.

Babesiosis in dogs, tick-borne diseases. Symptoms and treatments, Memphis Vet

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