Canine Babesiosis & Canine Erlichiosis

A guide for owners which deals with tick bite fevers in dogs


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CANINE BABESIOSIS (BILIARY FEVER) 

This, perhaps the most common infectious disease of dogs, is also known as tick bite fever or "Bosluiskoors" in Afrikaans. It is caused by a tiny parasite ( Babesia canis) which is introduced into the body by a tick bite. This parasite then enters and destroys red blood cells. Biliary in dogs has a lot in common with malaria in man, except that in the latter, a mosquito is the vector. 

Clinical signs of disease

The peracute (very sudden and severe) form causes death within a few hours and treatment is of little avail.  More commonly dogs suffer from the acute or subacute form. This is recognised by the dog being listless or lethargic, losing its appetite and running a temperature. If your dog is off its food, take a rectal temperature reading. If this is 39° C or higher you should have the dog examined - do not wait until its mucous membranes become pale, white or yellow, which commonly suggests a more advanced stage of the disease. Fever is present only while the patient is actively fighting the parasite; the disease may be present with a normal (38,5° C) or subnormal temperature. Yellow faeces and brown or red urine also suggests the presence of biliary fever.

Treatment 

Treatment should only be given after a positive diagnosis has been made by means of a blood test. Usually treatment is effective, depending on several factors, but the majority will respond. In early cases simple injections are usually sufficient, but in others blood transfusions, electrolyte infusions per vein, liver tonics, blood- building, etc., may be required.

Diet

Avoid fatty foods, and give a good quality balanced dog food. A tonic and/or follow up treatment may be required if the animal does not appear to be responding to the initial treatment. 

Prevention 

As yet, no preventive vaccine is available. Rely on reducing the dog's tick population by regular use of approved tick control measures that may be recommended by your veterinarian.

CANINE EHRLICHIOSIS

Canine ehrlichiosis is a disease of dogs caused by a tiny parasite (Ehrlichia canis) which is injected into the dog's bloodstream by a tick. The disease can vary from acute to chronic. The most important effects of the parasite are a destruction of red blood cells and a suppression of the function of the bone marrow.

Clinical signs of disease 

  1. Fever that is continuous or intermittent. 
  2. Loss of appetite (complete to intermittent}.
  3. Listlessness (variable}. 
  4. Progressive loss in body condition. 
  5. Progressive development of pale gums. 
  6. The dog may occasionally develop nose bleeds.

Treatment

Treatment is usually initiated when the disease has been confirmed by tests such as examination of a blood smear. The medication is usually given either orally and/or intravenously. Prolonged treatment may at times be necessary. Supportive treatment may include a blood transfusion, fluid administration, etc. Treatment is usually successful in the acute and subacute stages of the disease but in advanced chronic cases, the prognosis is often hopeless.

Prevention 

There is no vaccine available. Rely on reducing the dog's tick population by regular use of approved tick control measures that may be recommended by your veterinarian.

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