Tick Fever in Dogs: Babesiosis

Tick Fever in dogs is caused by one of two parasites that are carried and transmitted by ticks.  Babesosis is caused by parasites of the Babesia species and are spread mostly by the brown dog tick or the American dog tick.  Spreading between dogs by biting is also thought to be possible.

Babesia causes illness by attacking the red blood cells of its canine host, causing canine anemia.  So the main signs of Babesiosis are pale gums, weakness, fever, lethargy, jaundice (yellow gums and eyes) and red/orange urine.  The vet may find that the dog also has enlarged lymph nodes and an enlarged spleen.  The signs may be very mild or even cyclical, and diagnosis may be made after several bouts of the illness.  Occasionally dogs may suffer a very acute and severe form of babesiosis, which causes them to go into shock and collapse.

Babesiosis is usually treated by an injection which is given, then repeated 2 weeks later.  Antibiotics may also be prescribed.  The infection may not clear completely, but persist in a low grade form.  In some cases, hospitalization with or without a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Preventing exposure to ticks is the best way to try and protect your dog from Babesiosis.  Tick products are available from your veterinarian, and these should be used diligently especially during the warmer months and in areas where ticks are prevalent.  During tick season, you should check your dog all over daily and remove any ticks found.  Your vet or vet nurse can show you how to remove ticks on dogs.  Dogs that have been infected with Babesia should not be used for breeding or blood donation.

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