A confirmed case of Babesiosis (Babesia) by the Nor-West Animal Clinic here acts as a reminder of the need for continued vigilance when it comes to tick-borne diseases and our canine companions.
Babesia is a tick-borne infection that causes symptoms similar to Lyme disease, such as lameness, stiff and swollen joints, fever, and loss of appetite.
It also can cause severe Hemolytic Anemia, which occurs when red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made.
“Our practice has had a steady increase in tick disease statistics over the last five years,” Dr. Dan Pierroz said.
“We had 58 confirmed cases of Lyme and Anaplasma last year, up from 46 in 2017,” he noted.
“However, this is the first confirmed case of Babesia we have seen in the district.”
Like Lyme disease, Babesia is carried by the black-legged tick (deer tick). Unlike Lyme disease, however, there is no vaccination for dogs to aid in its prevention.
Treatment for Babesia often is a lengthy course of medications that may involve multiple blood transfusions.
Deer ticks hibernate instead of dying off over the winter, and are out as soon as daytime temperatures reach four degrees Celsius. During hibernation periods, they still can be found in underbrush or other sheltered areas.
As such, dogs that actively are exposed to these types of areas, such as farm, hunting, or outdoor dogs, can be prone to picking up ticks year-round.
Dr. Pierroz said a good tick control and disease prevention plan helps avoid the spread of tick-borne illnesses to pets.
“We recommend giving parasite prevention April through October, which is the season for heartworm and fleas,” he remarked.
But for tick control, he says, starting before exposure is the ideal time.
“We recommend a dog needs to be on that prevention from March through the time of permanent frost,” Dr. Pierroz said.
Year-round preventions, along with a Lyme vaccination, are recommended for many canine lifestyles.
There are a number of proven effective products available to protect your dog from ticks; it's just a matter of choosing the right one, with the help of your veterinarian.