GSD Health: Babesiosis

BABESIOSIS

We learned about a relatively “new” (for up here) tick disease that you all should learn the signs for: it’s called babesiosis, or infection from the Babesia canis tick. The dog we found this in was lethargic, wouldn’t eat much, and had a bad fever. He went to Tufts where he got an ultrasound because his bloodwork was actually ok. On ultrasound, some of his organs looked enlarged. Seemed like he had an infection. They did some tick tests, and bang, they found Babesia canis! This is a nasty, nasty tick disease for your dog to have and it is one that few vets do check for because it’s not common up here. This tick seems to come as far north as Martha’s Vineyard, from what I’ve read. I’d guess it comes into CT and southern MA, in general. It’s all over the southeast, southwest and is found in the northwest, too. We’ll start treatment of this dog right away! Here is a little description of it that I found on the web. This disease is not as common as Lyme disease or even Ehrlichia in the northern New England states. But it does come up and, left untreated, can kill your dog. :( So if your dog has these types of symptoms and tests negative for Lyme and Erlichia, ask to check for Babesia canis, too.

Babesia canis was formerly called Piroplasma canis, so you may hear infection with this parasite called “canine piroplasmosis”. B.canis is a one-celled parasite that infects dogs and other wild carnivores like wolves and fox. It can be quite common in certain areas of the southern United States and is found most often in kennel situations. The disease is transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick and the tick must feed for a minimum of 2 to 3 days to transmit the disease. Be sure to check your dog for ticks frequently.

Babesiosis is a cyclical disease, similar to Malaria. Dogs that recover from the initial infection show variable and unpredictable patent periods alternating with dormant periods. The clinical signs vary greatly depending upon the stage of the disease, the age and immune status of the dog and complications from other infections.

In the early stages few clinical symptoms may appear beyond intermittent fever and loss of appetite. In the chronic phase the most obvious initial signs to an owner are a cycle of lethargy, loss of interest in food and a gradual loss of body condition especially evident around the eyes and along the spine. Other symptoms are: upper respiratory problems such as coughing or labored breathing, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, ulcerative stomatitis (sores in the mouth), edema (swelling), abdominal swelling (ascites), bleeding under the skin or a rash (purpura), low White Blood Count, clotting problems, joint swelling, back pain, seizures, weakness, increased liver enzyme, low Platelet count, hyper reflective eyes, enlarged lymph nodes, enlarged spleen, septic shock and depression.

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