Babesiosis: new tick disease – what you need to know

Babesia-new-tick-diseaseYou may have seen some coverage on the News recently about the outbreak of a disease called Babesiosis, which has recently been discovered in the UK. It has the potential to infect a wide range of animals including our dogs and cats.

Whilst in the past this has not been in the UK, except for dogs that have travelled abroad, recent cases in Essex indicate that this tick borne disease is now present and reportedly likely to spread.

What causes Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is caused by the parasites Babesia and is transmitted by ticks when they feed.

What are the clinical signs?

Clinical signs are related to the infection and the break down of red blood cells within the blood stream. The signs can vary from case to case but can include a high temperature, decreased appetite, increased breathing rate, tremors, anaemia (low red cell numbers), jaundice (yellowing of the mucous membranes), weight loss, and discoloured urine.

How is it diagnosed?

Babesia is often identifying by seeing the parasites on a blood smear as shown below. Your vet may also decide to send blood to and external laboratory to help confirm a diagnosis.

How do we prevent and treat Babesia?

Babesiosis can be treated with specific medications and giving supportive treatment such as fluids and blood transfusions. However, as we all know, prevention is better then cure. This is best done by regularly checking your dogs and cats for ticks, especially around the head, ears and front legs. If you find a tick, please remove it using a specific tick remover that safely gets them off. Do not try any other methods and please do not just pull them off as you can leave their mouthparts stuck in the skin!

There are also specific treatments, which can help prevent ticks from biting your pet. The better and safer products are usually available from your vets and can come as tablets, spot on liquids or long-acting collars (if you are a member of our Family plan scheme, take advantage of the 15% off special offer price of these collars – have a look at the Family website for info).

If you have any other questions or concerns, especially if you think your pet may have ticks or caught Babesiosis please make an appointment to see one of our vets as we are here to help.

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Ian Stroud

Ian Stroud

Veterinary Surgeon at Vet4life
Ian Stroud is a highly experienced small animal veterinary surgeon with over 15 years working in practice. He has particular interests in several areas including minimally-invasive surgery, orthopaedics and oncology (cancer treatment). He currently practices in Teddington, Shepperton and Surbiton where he is the director of Vet4life.
Ian Stroud

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