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Babesiosis infection in dogs, also known as Babesia refers to a tick-borne infection due to a protozoal parasite. Babesia invades mammalian red blood cells causing anemia.

Dogs of all ages can be affected with Babesia infection but young puppies are more commonly affected. Babesiosis has an incubation period of about two weeks, so there is often a delay of at least two weeks from infection to the appearance of symptoms.

However, symptoms can be very slow to manifest, and cases can be unrecognized for years. Risk correlates positively with environmental and seasonal exposure to ticks and negatively with proper tick prevention and removal.

Babesiosis is primarily spread through the bite of an infected tick (multiple tick species can carry the disease). There is also evidence that some direct animal-to-animal transmission may occur, such as when an infected dog with oral lesions or abrasions bites another dog. This is particularly true for Babesia gibsoni, which primarily affects pit bull terriers.

Causes Babesiosis in Dogs

In most cases, Babesia organisims are spread to dogs through the bite of an infected tick, however, 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.

While most cases of babesiosis are transmitted via tick bites, in pit bull terriers Babesia gibsoni infection is most often due to maternal transmission or dog to dog bites.

Babesia infection could also be transmitted accidentally due to a tainted blood transfusion.

Symptoms of Babesiosis in Dogs

Dogs with chronic Babesia infections may be asymptomatic. However, even when you don’t notice symptoms, it’s possible for your pooch to spread the disease to other pets and people.

The type of Babesia that’s infected your pet will determine which symptoms he or she exhibits. That said, common symptoms of Babesia include:

  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • Orange or dark red urine
  • Weakness


Clinically, babesiosis can be confused with other conditions that cause fever, anemia, hemolysis, jaundice, or red urine. Therefore, confirmation of diagnosis by microscopic examination of Giemsa-stained blood or organ smears is essential. From the live animal, thick and thin blood smears should be prepared, preferably from capillaries in the ear or tail tip.

Treatment of Babesiosis in Dogs

Treatment will vary depending on the species of Babesia. In the case of Babesia canis (the most common species in Europe) your dog will receive two injections given two weeks apart. It is likely that he will also need additional supportive treatment such as intravenous fluids and blood transfusions. Unfortunately, some dogs with severe clinical signs can die despite treatment.


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