Babesiosis is an infecitous desease in dogs, which causes destruction of red blood cells and thus leads to anaemia. The infection is contracted through tick bites.
In Germany, above all the acute variant of the dogs' malaria can be found. The symptoms evolve approximately five to six days after the infection. Only in rare cases, the symptom development takes place several weeks after the infection. The first symptoms are mainly characterized by an impaired general condition and high fever (up to 42°C). The dog loses its appetite, loses weight and behaves more and more apathetic. A few days after, due to the decomposition of the red blood cells, anemia and the so called bloody urination are noticed. The urine of the dog is colored with blood. Possibly, icterus can develop which can be seen by means of a yellow coloring of the mucous membranes, the skin and the eyes. At the same time, with many dogs a filling of the middle abdomen emerges. Edemas (fluid retentions) possibly develop on the dog's body and bleeding of the mucosa and inflammations of the oral mucosa and gastric mucosa may evolve. A variant related to nerves is also possible. It is additionally characterized by seizures being similar to epilepsy, impairments of the musculoskeletal system up to lameness. The acute disease normally ends fatal within a few days in case of missing therapy. The symptoms of the chronic variant have identical course, only with slightly milder development.
The disease being found in tropical and subtropical areas and until the 1970ies only in South Europe is transferred by ticks. The distribution of ticks in Central Europe caused that the disease can be considered by now as natural. The agent (Babesia) is transferred by tick bites of different tick types. The transmission lasts about two to three days. Additionally, an infection via blood transfusion with infected blood or by blood-to-blood contacts with infected animals is possible, as it may appear for example in case of biting among dogs. Furthermore, a transmission from the she-dog to its dog puppies is possible.
In general, there is the risk that the dogs' malaria is mixed up with other aguish diseases. The diagnosis can be determined quite easily by means of the examination of the blood under microscope. Without treatment the prospects for healing are poor. After the treatment, the healing can be considered as favorable, however it is better for larger breeds than for smaller ones. Therefore, in case of suspicion, therapeutic measures need immediately to be started. In order to fight the cause, the dog is generally treated with drugs (Babeszide) which however are administered very dosed due to their serious adverse effects. In acute cases, blood transfusions are required. Additionally, the application of infusions or further medication will be appropriate for the alleviation of the symptoms.
The disease shall be considered an emergency since possibly danger to life emanates from it. The dog needs to get as fast as possible to a veterinary hospital or a veterinarian. It is always quite difficult to notice blood in the urine of an animal in time. Therefore it is appropriate to monitor at least once a week - particularly with older animals - the urine discharge. Basically, the dog shall be checked for ticks after each walk. These are to be removed immediately. Additionally, a medicinal prophylaxis against ticks, because it also prevents other diseases transferred by ticks, or wearing a bugs collar is recommended. Furthermore, there is a vaccination which does not protect against an infection but diminishes the disease. Since the distribution of the transferring tick still accumulates in climatically warm regions (in Central Europe, for example, the Mediterranean region, South France or South England would be included), prior to a trip abroad into such a territory it is recommendable to discuss your options with your veterinarian.