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What you need to know about Babesia canis

02 March 2016
6 mins read
Volume 7 · Issue 2


Babesia canis is a tick-borne disease of canids, capable of causing acute lifethreatening disease. Pet travel has brought an increasing number of UK dogs into European countries where the parasite is endemic. This has not only put these dogs at risk of being exposed to the parasite abroad, but also increased the risk of the parasite becoming endemic in the UK. Although, until recently, the UK was thought to be free of B. canis, Dermacentor reticulatus ticks capable of harbouring the parasite are present in endemic foci across the south of the country. This combination of factors has led to a focus of B. canis infection becoming established in Essex, with subsequent cases of babesiosis. This article discusses B. canis distribution and control, as well as identification of ticks that may transmit the parasite.

Babesiosis is a disease caused by the tickborne protozoan parasite Babesia species. There are a number of species within the Babesia family, including: Babesia canis canis, Babesia canis vogeli (from here on referred to as just Babesia canis and Babesia vogeli), Babesia gibsoni and Babesia (Theileria) annae. The two major tick species responsible for transmitting the disease are known to be Dermacentor reticulatus and Rhipicephalus sanguineus. D. reticulatus ticks are common throughout central and southern Europe, including some areas of the UK. R. sanguineus ticks are common in southern Europe but are not endemic in the UK where the climate does not suit their long-term survival outside, although imported ticks are reported to thrive in domestic environments in the UK under the right conditions. (Fisher and Halos, 2014; Stokes, 2015). Infection can lead to red cell lysis and immune-mediated disease, resulting in anaemia, icterus, lymphadenopathy, pyrexia, secondary renal and hepatic disease, and in severe cases, death.

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