Canine Babesiosis

Canine Babesiosis

tick-482613_1920Many of you will have seen reports in the news recently about an emerging disease in dogs called Babesiosis, which can be transmitted via tick bites.

Babesiosis has historically been found in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate climates such as Africa, Asia, Southern Europe, Central and South America, and parts of the USA; and may previously have been seen in dogs travelling abroad and back to the UK. The disease is predominantly transmitted by the tick “Dermacentor reticulatus” in Europe, and as the recent case reports in Essex are of dogs that have not travelled abroad, it would seem that this tick species has now established populations in the UK.

So, what is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a tick-transmitted protozoal infection of the red bloods cells (erythrocytes), causing them to rupture, and the inflammatory response results in damage to the blood vessels. The result is a moderate to severe haemolytic anaemia and related clinical signs, with multi-organ dysfunction in complicated cases.

Signs of Babesiosis:
  • JAUNDICE (yellow-tinged gums, eyes or skin)
  • NERVOUS SIGNS (e.g. restlessness, twitching, incoordination, collapse, seizures)
If you are concerned that your dog is showing any of these signs, then please contact the surgery for advice.


  • Suitable regular tick control using a product that either repels or rapidly kills ticks.
  • Ticks generally feed for up to 3 days following attachment to the dog, before transmitting the infection, but may be up to 24 hours in some cases, so a licensed veterinary product that works to kill ticks within 24 hours is most ideal – be aware that ticks will not always fall off your dog once they have died, and so may require manual removal, but once they have been killed, they cannot transmit parasitic infections.
  • The incubation period of the disease is 10 – 20 days from transmission.


Detecting ticks:
  • Ticks are most commonly found in woodland, heath areas, and also land where livestock may be grazing.
  • After walking your dog in such areas, check their skin on the head first – around the mouth and ears, behind the ears, and on the neck – then work your way down the front legs and rest of the body searching for any lumps on the skin surface.


If you find a lump:
  • Part the hair and look at it more closely, using a magnifying glass if necessary.
  • The place where the tick attaches may or may not be painful, and there may be skin swelling – it is distinguished from other skin swellings and growths because close scrutiny can reveal the tick’s legs at the level of the skin.


If you find a tick:
  • When attempting to remove a tick, avoid handling the parasite directly. Wear gloves and dispose of the tick hygienically, so they cannot re-attach themselves or lay eggs.
  • The aim is to remove the whole tick, including its mouthparts without squeezing the tick’s body.
  • Use a specially designed hook or scoop with a narrow slot that traps the tick’s mouthparts.
  • Slide the hook under the tick at skin level so as not to grip the head of the tick.
  • Scoop out the tick by rotating the hook around the tick’s head to help dislodge the mouth parts before removal.
  • Flush the tick down the toilet, or sink using hot water.
  • DO NOT attempt to burn, cut, or pull the tick off with your fingers.
  • Buy a tick removal tool and keep it in your pet first aid kit.
  • If in doubt, contact the surgery for advice – one of our Veterinary Nurses will be happy to remove the tick and demonstrate correct use of a tick hook!


At Stanhope Park Veterinary Hospital, we have a number of effective tick prevention options to suit your dog’s requirements, the most common of which include palatable chewable tablets and a long-acting repelling collar.

Whilst Babesiosis is currently a rare disease seen in the UK, it is important to remember that there are a number of other tick-borne diseases that can affect dogs both in the UK and if travelling abroad, so appropriate regular tick control methods are advisable.

For further information, please contact the surgery on 01325 380111, to speak to a member of our team.


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