Piroplasmosis Infections and Babesia in Dogs
Humans cannot contract Babesia from a dog
Piroplasmosis in Humans
Humans cannot contract Babesia from a dog
The Symptoms of Piroplasmosis: Cabinet Veterinaire International is passionate about spreading the Piroplasmosis word – and that starts with making veterinarians and dog owners aware of its symptoms. Regrettably, Piroplasmosis is often misdiagnosed or overlooked as “old age,” when in fact, the dead red blood cells may be accumulating in clumps and blocking the capillaries of the central nervous system, cutting off tissues’ oxygen supply. In most veterinary practices, dark urine is the principal diagnostic factor in determining if Piroplasmosis should be considered; however, at CVI, we have only seen dark urine in 1 out of 29 positive cases.
If your dog is experiencing sluggishness and weakness, reduced appetite, a lack of coordination and/or leg weakness, limping or reluctance to walk, skin problems resembling allergic reactions, muscle soreness (especially in the legs and back), inability to control the bladder, seizures or tremors, difficulties in digestion, breathing problems, pain of the mouth or head, ear twitching, or dark-colored urine, see a veterinarian immediately and express your Piroplasmosis concerns. We would recommend that the veterinarian test for Babesia right away, particularly if he or she finds that the dog has an elevated temperature, enlargement of the spleen, sciatic nerve neuropathy, high globulin count, anemia, jaundice, muscle hemorrhaging, low platelet count and/or low blood pressure, rhabdomyolysis (the deterioration and death of muscles), dysfunction of the kidneys or any other organ, loss of eyesight, shock, or an elevated immune system response.
It is important to act quickly because a Piroplasmosis infection can result in death or permanent disability. Babesia affects victims in a variety of ways. Some will carry the parasite for their entire lives with no noticeable symptoms. If left untreated, others will experience an acute attack followed by remission, and yet others will suffer from the effects of the disease for their entire lives, without relief.
Confirming a Piroplasmosis Infection: The polymerase chain reaction test, or PCR, is one tool for diagnosing Piroplasmosis. Another test involves looking at a blood sample under a microscope, to examine red blood cells for the presence of Babesia. A relatively high concentration of the parasite in the sample usually indicates a more severe infection. The accuracy of this test is highly dependent upon the aptitude and precision of the laboratory staff testing the sample.
Therapy for Piroplasmosis: Even if the presence of Babesia is questionable, we still recommend that all dogs showing even a few of the above-mentioned symptoms be treated for Piroplasmosis. The consequences of untreated Piroplasmosis greatly overshadow any side effects that may be experienced as results of the injected medications.
Discuss the effects of Piroplasmosis with your dog’s veterinarian and ask pointed questions about the potential for kidney and liver damage, as well as screening of donors in case a blood transfusion is needed. Every patient will respond differently to treatment, and therefore, close monitoring by his or her veterinarian, as well as frank conversations between you and the doctor, are essential.
Piroplasmosis Complications: Even though the immune system can be proven nearly powerless in the fight against Babesia, it does help to keep it at bay to some degree. For this reason, if a dog’s immunity is suppressed, the annihilation of red blood cells can be more extreme, causing Piroplasmosis to develop as a chronic disease or to display with more-severe-than-usual symptoms.
Because the spleen acts as a blood filter, those Babesia victims that have had their spleen removed generally experience Piroplasmosis symptoms that are more severe than average. A documented case involving a splenectomized terrier ended tragically, in that the dog passed away only 2 days after the infection became evident.
Avoiding Piroplasmosis Infection: As with many contractible illnesses, the best proactive treatment for Piroplasmosis is prevention. You may choose to vaccinate your dog, which can reduce the severity and number of symptoms; but do not rely entirely on this vaccine to protect your dog. You must still insist that any blood donors and breeding candidates be screened for Babesia.
Being housed with other Babesia-infected dogs increases any dog’s chances of contracting the parasite. Furthermore, Greyhounds run an increased risk of contracting Babesia canis vogeli, thanks to high occurrences of Greyhound-to-Greyhound blood transfusions that go largely untested. Dogs with a propensity for fighting are at great risk for contracting Babesia gibsoni, making American pit bulls more susceptible to Piroplasmosis.
Because it takes 2 to 3 days for a tick to discharge pathogens into its host, daily inspection of your dog’s skin for the pests is one of the best things you can do to prevent Piroplasmosis and other blood-borne diseases like Lyme disease. If you find a tick feeding upon your dog, grab a cotton ball, some rubbing alcohol, and a pair of tweezers. Push your dog’s fur away from the tick and grab the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible. Pull it out in one, smooth motion (don’t pull it out at an angle, yank on it, or try to wiggle it loose). If you irritate the tick, you increase the likelihood that it will regurgitate its contents into your dog’s bloodstream. Next, drop the tick into a container filled with rubbing alcohol to both kill and preserve it (your dog’s veterinarian might want to see the perpetrator). Disinfect the bite site with alcohol.
Cabinet Veterinaire International recommends that all dog owners use drops or spray that are formulated to discourage ticks from feeding. All products should be tested on your dog before using them. You can do this by applying a small amount to one paw and monitoring the area for one day. If your dog experiences any type of skin reaction, contact his or her veterinarian for treatment and for other product recommendations. If no reaction is experienced, apply the product as directed on the package.