Canine Babesiosis – What all Dog owners need to know

I have always been around dogs. We had a dog at home when I was growing up and in my opinion they make wonderful pets – loving, friendly and loyal. My children have grown up with our dog Barney. He was a member of our family before they even arrived, so they don’t know life without their trusty companion.

Having a dog as a pet in a way is very similar to the baby years with your own children. They need house training, lots of attention and regular health checks and vaccinations. They need bathing, grooming and your care and attention – ok, not as much as a child, but they do thrive on it.

As a responsible pet owner it is your job to ensure they are up-to-date with their vaccinations, that they are wormed regularly and that they are bathed, brushed and have a flea treatment regularly applied – believe me it’s a horrid job ridding your pet of these pests otherwise – sadly I have been there and done that and it is hard work as it’s not only your pet which will need treating but also your house too.

And just when you thought you had all of the above under control, there is always something new cropping up, which you need to know about, such as the recent reports of the often fatal tick-borne disease, canine babesiosis.

Babesiosis is similar to malaria in presentation and the parasites that cause it infect the red blood cells causing anaemia. I have joined forces with FRONTLINE® to give you all the facts about this disease which can be fatal to our pets and to give you the information on how to tackle ticks on your pet.
Although there have been cases of canine babesiosis in the UK before, the animals infected with it had  travelled abroad and therefore had picked up the disease abroad – recent cases presented in the UK however, have been diagnosed in animals who haven’t travelled, so of course this poses a new worry and fear for us pet owners.

Symptoms of canine babesiosis can range from mild to severe and include:
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Pale gums
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Orange or red-coloured urine

If your dog has or had ticks recently and presents with the above symptoms then it is advisable to contact your vet immediately.

The ugly truth about ticks:
  • Ticks can transmit a wide variety of diseases, and are second only to mosquitos worldwide as vectors of disease, such as Lyme disease, to both humans and animals.
  • A single female tick can lay up to 10,000 eggs
  • Unfed ticks are tiny (the size of a sesame seed), so they can be difficult to spot on your dog.
  • Ticks feed on the blood of their host – they engorge and can increase up to 200 times their original size!
  • Ticks do not have wings to fly and can’t jump, they travel by walking on the ground and up plants where they wait for a host to latch onto.
  • Ticks vary in colour (ranging from reddish to dark brown), and differ in size, depending on the species, age and sex of the tick
There is currently no human vaccine to defend against Lyme disease in the UK and Ireland, so prevention really is key, especially as Lyme disease is the most common vector borne disease reported in Europe every year with around 65,000 cases*.

How to tackle ticks

  • Check your pets (and yourself) for ticks after walks or having been outside
  • Pay particular attention to areas where your dog’s hair is thinner such as their heads, around the ears and their tummy
  • To help protect your pet from ticks and fleas, use an appropriate product such as FRONTLINE® Spot On monthly. It kills ticks within 48 hours of contact with your treated pet, minimising the risk of tick-borne disease transmission. 
  • Ticks should drop off naturally once they are dead, but if they don’t, you can safely remove them using a tick hook – if you are concerned about doing this yourself (as you have to ensure you remove the entire tick), a vet will happily do this for you.

It’s not all glamour owning a pet but these are things we all have to do to ensure the health and safety of our precious friends.
*Rizzoli A, Hauffe HC, Carpi G, Vourc’h GI, Neteler M, Rosa R. Lyme borreliosis in Europe. Euro Surveill. 2011; 16(27): pii=19906. Available online: Article
“This is a collaborative post”
FRONTLINE® Spot On contains fipronil. Legal category: AVM-GSL. ®Registered Trademark. For further prescribing information, refer to the data sheet on or contact Merial Animal Health Ltd, CM19 5TG, UK. Use medicines responsibly.

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