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Babesiosis in Dogs: That’s How Dangerous Dog Malaria Is

Babesiosis is triggered by a tick bite and has life-threatening consequences for the infected dog. In which areas dogs can become infected, which protective measures have to be taken and all important information about “dog malaria” can be found here.

What is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis in dogs is an infectious disease that is triggered by parasites. The parasites live intracellularly in the blood cells, multiply there and cause their destruction. Because of its similarity to malaria in humans, the term “dog malaria” is common in babesiosis.

Dog Babesiosis: Transmission

As with Ehrlichiosis in dogs, this infectious disease is also transmitted by ticks. The pathogens enter the dog’s bloodstream through the ticks’ saliva. The microscopic parasites are transmitted by both riparian forest ticks and brown dog ticks. Four-legged friends can only infect each other under the following conditions: if a blood transfusion takes place or if there is another mutual contact with blood, for example during a bite attack.

Babesiosis: Occurrence

Like leishmaniasis, babesiosis used to be a typical travel sickness because it occurred in the Mediterranean countries as well as Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, and dogs were infected while on vacation in Italy, France, or Spain.

Since the 1970s, Central Europe and thus also Germany has moved more and more into the distribution area of the tick.

In Germany, the alluvial forest tick (Dermacentor reticulatus) is mainly responsible for the disease in dogs. It can withstand the cold and survives winter even at low temperatures. Their preferred habitats include riparian forests, deciduous forests, humid areas, and moors.

Dog Babesiosis: Symptoms

The signs of illness in babesiosis are manifold, as different species exist within the babesias. The incubation period is usually one to three weeks. In the course of the disease, the dog may experience the following clinical symptoms:

  • high fever up to 42 degrees;
  • loss of appetite;
  • discomfort;
  • pale mucous membranes;
  • discolored urine (dark brown or reddish);
  • paralysis;
  • water retention;
  • movement disorders;
  • epileptic seizures;
  • anemia.

If babesiosis is chronic, this can lead to emaciation, weakness, and attacks of fever. If there is no treatment, babesiosis leads to the death of the infected four-legged friend.

Babesiosis in Dogs: Diagnosis

If the dog shows the symptoms mentioned above, detailed questioning of the veterinarian about traveling abroad or tick bites is informative. A veterinarian will then diagnose the disease using a blood test. The parasites can be seen with the help of a microscope. However, if the dog shows no signs of illness, a blood test is less suitable. In such cases, an anti-body test will give you certainty.

Babesiosis in Dogs: Treatment

First of all: The disease is curable. Once the dog has been diagnosed with babesiosis, however, treatment must be prompt. The veterinarian gives the infected four-legged friend a medicine to treat parasitic infectious diseases (anti protozoic). In order to improve the general condition of the dog, he is given infusions and, in the case of severe anemia – the disease causes the destruction of the red blood cells – blood transfusions.

Babesiosis in Dogs: Prevention

Dog babesiosis is a serious disease. Reliable protection is therefore essential. What measures do dog owners take to keep the risk of transmission as low as possible?

The right tick protection

The best protection against babesiosis is a reliably effective anti-tick remedy or tick collar. Manufacturers offer a large number of preparations on the market, each of which differs in terms of its effectiveness and tolerability. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that is best for every dog. The search for the right remedy usually takes some time. Then it turns out which does not lead to any side effects in your own dog and at the same time effectively protects against the bloodsuckers.

Avoid risk areas

If there is a particularly high risk of infection in an area, you should reconsider taking your dog with you. If the trip is avoidable, it is advisable not to expose the dog to the risk of infection.

Vaccination against babesiosis

The babesiosis vaccine is available in Mediterranean countries. From Germany, there is the option of importing the vaccine. However, the syringe does not protect against the disease: a vaccination only reduces the symptoms significantly.

Control after the walk

Additional checks after a walk in the forest or in damp areas increase the safety of your four-legged friend. In the event that dog owners find what they are looking for, they remove the ticks with special pliers or a tick hook. This reduces the risk of disease transmission.

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