Babesi-what?!? Emerging Tick Diseases in Dogs

We all hate ticks and have known about pockets of Lymes disease in the UK carried by their bite but worryingly there have now been cases of dogs contracting a serious tick borne infection called Babesiosis. Babesiosis is a life threatening disease in dogs caught by being bitten and infected by a tick carrying a tiny singled celled parasite called a protozoa.  Who knew that ticks as parasites themselves could carry parasites too? Babesia Canis 1 Until these recent cases, Babesiosis had never been reported in a dog in the UK that had never travelled abroad. We have been aware for years that ticks on the continent carry many diseases spread by their bites and have been vigilant in protecting our travelling dogs. But with these recent cases Vets across the country are worried that we are likely to see more of these ‘exotic’ diseases spread by tick bites in the UK. Now that cases have been confirmed in the UK this parasite is likely here to stay, eradication of the disease will be incredibly difficult.

Thankfully there have been no cases in Surrey reported so far.

Ticks need to feed on blood to survive.   As they engorge themselves and their abdomens swell they get to a point where they need to start excreting excess consumed fluids and their waste products.  To do so, they back flush these products into the host that they are feeding on.  If they have previously bitten an animal carrying Babesia the next dog they feed on will effectively be injected with this Babesia parasite as the tick fills up. ticks Sadly three of the four dogs affected with Babesia in Kent have died.   Signs of infection include a high temperature, lack of appetite and a miserable dog but ultimately the parasite damages red blood cells and affected dogs end up with life threatening anaemia which can require blood transfusions. Babesiosis is treatable in dogs but does require a lengthy course of medication and repeat blood testing which can become costly.

As with all of these tick transmissible diseases prevention in the first place is by far the best option.

To protect your dog against ticks we recommend you need to be using either a topical spot on that repels ticks, a collar that repels ticks or a tablet that kills ticks before they get to the stage where they are engorged and start to excrete back into the host they are feeding on. Depending on your pet’s lifestyle we can advise you of the best product to use and the costs involved.  Feel free to contact us for free advice. If you pet has been bitten by a tick (Louise has already seen two patients this week with ticks despite it being early March) and is showing any signs of illness then please contact the surgery as soon as possible for advice and an appointment.