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Symptoms and Signs of Babesiosis in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

How Babesiosis Affects Dogs

How badly a dog feels when it is infected with Babesia probably depends mostly upon the extent of damage to its red blood cell supply. Dogs of any age or breed can become infected with these parasites. Dogs with severe babesiosis will be weak, tired and depressed. They will be reluctant to rise and move around and probably will lose their appetite. They may also lose weight.

Symptoms of Babesiosis

Babesiosis can cause extremely debilitating disease in some dogs. It can even be deadly. Some dogs, however, show few if any symptoms of illness. When signs are present, they can be virtually indistinguishable from the symptoms associated with anemia due to other causes. Dogs infected by Babesia often develop one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Reluctance to rise
  • Pale mucous membranes (pallor of the gums and tongue)
  • Ocular discharge (from the eyes)
  • Nasal discharge (from the nose)
  • Lack of appetite (inappetance; anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Dark urine (“port-wine” urine; hemoglobin in the urine; hemoglobinuria)
  • Icterus (yellowness of the skin, mucous membranes, sclerae [the tough, usually white outer surface of the eyeballs] and bodily excretions; also called “jaundice”)
  • Discolored stool
  • History of tick bites
  • History of dog fights/bite wounds
  • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenomegaly)
  • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination (ataxia)
  • Collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark, tarry stools

Dogs at Increased Risk

American Pit Bull Terriers have an increased risk of becoming infected by Babesia gibsoni. Greyhounds in the United States are at increased for infection by Babesia canis. Dogs that spend significant time outdoors in tick-infested areas, including dogs used for hunting, tracking or field trial competitions, and dogs receiving blood transfusions, dogs that are prone to fighting with other dogsand puppies born to infected mothers, also are at increased risk of developing babesiosis. Dogs that have had their spleen removed, and those that are on long-term immunosuppressive steroid drug therapy, can develop especially severe complications from Babesia, irrespective of whether they are infected before, during or after the particular therapy or procedure.

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