Babesia Piroplasmosis | Cabinet Veterinaire International

Piroplasmosis Infections and Babesia in Dogs
Humans cannot contract Babesia from a dog
Piroplasmosis in Humans

Piroplasmosis Infections and Babesia in Dogs

This is a quiz. What do you call a blood-borne parasite that is transmitted by tick bites (among other means) and causes overwhelming symptoms such as fever, muscle hemorrhaging, seizures, and coma?

The answer is Babesia.

One more quiz. What do you call the disease that Babesia causes? The disease that can result in the worse possible consequence…death?

The illness is known as Piroplasmosis, and Cabinet Veterinaire International feels it is our duty to inform you of its dangerous consequences. Ultimately, we will convey the seven major Babesia and Piroplasmosis points that every dog owner needs to know, but first, we’d like to touch on the seriousness of human Piroplasmosis infections.

Piroplasmosis and other tick-borne diseases (like Lyme) have long been believed to be isolated to particular geographic regions; however, recent studies have shown evidence to the contrary. For instance, an Australian native, 56 years old, has been diagnosed with Piroplasmosis, post-mortem. There had never been a diagnosed case of the disease in all of Australia or New Zealand; plus, the man’s dog and son tested negative. This means the Babesia must be making its way from Europe, Asia, or The States in seabirds’ and rodents’ ride-along ticks. The Australian man in question arrived at a hospital with injuries to his liver and kidneys, as well as broken bones, sustained in a vehicular accident. He spent four months in the hospital, and his condition had only compounded – now he was anemic, had low platelet counts, and his liver was dysfunctional. Fever and chills, along with the beginnings of multiple organ failure were also likely symptoms. Murdoch University reports that ring-like parasites were viewed on the man’s blood sample slides, so he was treated for malaria; however, that treatment was ill-advised and the man passed away. He hadn’t left the continent for four decades – other than traveling to New Zealand, where there had also been no documented cases. The seabird and rodent theory seemed to be the only probable one.

A 2011 Massachusetts study has revealed a notable upsurge in Piroplasmosis incidences in the state’s elderly population. This is probably because a strong human immune system can often keep Babesia in check, but when the immunity is weakened (as it is with age), the parasite can more easily take hold and cause Piroplasmosis. A splenectomy (removal of the spleen) can also contribute to the severity and magnitude of symptoms. This information is causing particular concern, especially when one considers that the diagnosed cases of Piroplasmosis in Massachusetts doubled in 2011. Treatment for the disease should be carried out even if test results are inconclusive – in order to avoid life-altering symptoms…and the worst possible consequence.

Though humans cannot contract canine Babesia and dogs cannot contract human Babesia, it is important that every dog owner is knowledgeable in the seven specific areas of the canine disease – so they can protect the pets to which they have promised their undying loyalty.

1. Babesia’s Behavior and Biology: Babesia is a protozoan (single-cell) parasite that thrives inside red blood cells. It reproduces there, too. Like other protozoan organisms, Babesia cells divide in two until the red blood cell it inhabits becomes so bloated that it ruptures and dies. This sends more Babesia into the bloodstream of the host, where the parasites take over and kill more red blood cells. Science has identified more than 100 strains of Babesia.

2. The Transmission of Babesia from one Canine to Another: Since Babesia is a blood-borne parasite, open wound contact can provide ample opportunity for it to move from the blood stream of one dog to the blood stream of another. When two dogs fight, for instance, the chances of transferal are increased. This is the reason that Babesia gibsoni is most common among pit bulls in The United States – because many of them are forced or permitted to fight with one another.

Blood transfusion is another way that Babesia can be transmitted from one canine to another.  Babesia canis vogeli infections occur most often in the Greyhound population because instances of un-tested same-breed transfusions are common.
If a tick feeds upon the blood of an infected canine, the Babesia can be transmitted to the tick’s next canine victim (regardless of whether the original host had symptoms or not).
Finally, puppies can contract Babesia in utero, if their mother is positive. This phenomenon is known as vertical transmission, and it has been confirmed by the finding of Babesia in the blood streams of every 3-day-old pup in a litter mothered by a dam that tested positive.

3. Piroplasmosis Prevention: Before we discuss how dog owners can recognize the symptoms of Piroplasmosis, we’d like to touch on prevention – so that symptoms never come about. Of course, no method is foolproof, but with diligence, the chances of your dog contracting Babesia will be greatly reduced.

Inspect your dog’s coat every day, looking for both crawling ticks and ticks that have already latched on. Look closely, because some ticks can be as small as the tip of a ball-point pen. All ticks that you find should be plunged into a jar of rubbing alcohol, saved, and labeled with the date. To remove an imbedded tick, grasp it close to the dog’s skin and pull it straight out, without wiggling it side-to-side or pulling it in different directions. Wipe the area with a bit of rubbing alcohol. Your dog’s doctor should be notified if you find an imbedded tick. This procedure should prevent any contraction of Babesia, since it usually takes a minimum of 24 hours of feeding for a tick to transfer any parasites to its host.
Cabinet Veterinaire International also recommends that you use an anti-tick topical solution on your dog’s coat – to prevent ticks from latching on. Apply a bit of the solution to your dog’s paw and wait for 24 hours. If an adverse reaction occurs (such as a skin rash), contact his or her veterinarian. If no negative side effects are experienced, apply the full amount of product as directed.

Have your dog vaccinated against Piroplasmosis. This vaccine will not prevent your dog from contracting Babesia, but it will reduce the number and severity of Piroplasmosis symptoms.

Demand that any blood donations be screened for Babesia. Likewise, if you are planning to breed your dog, require that both the dam and the sire be tested before any mating occurs.
Finally, keep your dog under your control at all times – ensuring that dog fights and unsanctioned breeding do not occur.