Protecting Your Canine Friend From Babesia

No one is probably more excited for warmer weather than your canine friend. While playing in the yard is good for your dog's health, the outdoors is also full of dangerous bugs that can transmit life-endangering diseases to your pet. In particular, ticks—the number of which typically peak in warm and humid months—can cause your dog to come down with a rare disease called Babesia. Here's more information about this illness and how you can protect your dog from it. 

A Parasitic Disease

Babesia, also known as babesiosis, is a parasite that infects the red blood cells of the victim. There are over 100 species of Babesia, and different kinds will infect different species of animals including cattle, dogs, cats, and even humans. However, all of these parasites are most commonly transmitted to the host via bites from infected ticks; though transmission can also occur through blood transfusions.

Once infected, it can take about two weeks for the disease to develop. Unfortunately, symptoms can be so mild that it may take months and even years before an infected dog is diagnosed. However, if your dog exhibits these characteristic symptoms of the disease, you may want to get him or her checked by a veterinarian right away:

  • Jaundice (yellow or orange skin caused by destruction of red blood cells)
  • Red or orange urine
  • Discolored stools
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Pale gums
  • Fever
  • Swollen stomach
  • Unexplained weight loss

The vet will usually confirm the diagnosis via lab tests. Although the disease can be treated using medication, the drugs used to combat the infection can have severe side effects including causing death. Some dogs become so severely affected by the disease, they require blood transfusions. Early detection is critical to increasing the odds your canine companion will survive the infection.

Preventing a Babesia Infection

As noted previously, the most common way dogs are infected with this disease is from tick bites. However, the tick must feed on the dog for at least two to three days before the parasite will take hold in the blood. Therefore, the primary thing you can do is to ensure your dog is wearing tick repellent and to check the animal for ticks after he or she has been outside. This can help you locate and remove ticks that may have attached to the dog and treat wounds caused by tick bites before they become infected by bacteria.

Another thing you can do is to eliminate ticks in your yard (or where you dog plays). Keep the grass trimmed and move piles of woods to the farthest corner of the area. Ticks tend to build homes in wood piles. Use a pet-friendly pesticide in the yard and inside cracks and crevices in the exterior and interior of the home to kill and repel ticks. Your dog's bedding and cage should be cleaned on a regular basis to eliminate ticks that may have gotten a ride inside.

For more information about Babesia or tips on keeping your pet safe, talk to a veterinarian (such as one from 1st Pet Veterinary Centers) in your area.