Babesiosis in dogs - what to know, what to do

Many pet parents know that ticks can pass on nasty infections. Lyme disease is well-known and can affect humans too. But what about babesiosis? This lesser-known tick-borne disease can be serious, so it’s important pet parents are clued up on the signs and know how it’s treated.

What is babesiosis and what does it do?

Ticks can be vectors for many diseases. One such disease is babesiosis, caused by a microscopic parasite called Babesia, similar to the parasite that causes malaria. There are different species of Babesia and each has its own host. The most common in Europe is Babesia canis, which affects dogs, but other rarer species affect cats or humans. 

Once a tick transmits Babesia to a dog, the parasite gets straight to work, attacking the red blood cells. Sounds nasty? That’s because, unfortunately, it is. Babesiosis can make our four-legged friends very ill with severe anaemia and, very sadly, can even be fatal.


Where do dogs pick it up?

Babesiosis used to be associated with travel outside the UK, but unfortunately a tick species called Dermacentor reticulatus that can transmit Babesia now lives in Essex, Wales, the South East and South West. It’s expected to spread to other parts of the UK too. And that’s why pet parents need to know about it.

What are the signs?

Prompt treatment can save a dog’s life, so it’s crucial to know how to spot the symptoms. If there’s any chance your canine companion could have babesiosis, get them to the vet right away. They’ll be able to take a blood sample, send it off to be tested for the parasite and give the right course of treatment.

Dogs can display a variety of signs, from mild and intermittent to severe. Not all dogs display the same symptoms, so if there’s any doubt, get your pet checked out.

Signs can include:

  • weakness and loss of energy

  • loss of appetite

  • jaundice

  • red or brown, rusty-looking urine

  • increased heart rate

  • fever

  • weight loss

  • pale gums

  • rapid breathing


Protecting our pets

To help keep our dogs at their best, there are a few things we can do.

Check our pets for ticks regularly

Especially after they’ve walked in an area with lots of vegetation, have come back from kennels, or have been abroad. Pay close attention to the head, ears, face, legs, neck, groin and armpits.

Remove any ticks safely as soon as possible

Don’t squeeze, pierce or burn a tick, as this increases the chance of them passing on an infection to your pet. Instead, put on some gloves and use a specialist tick remover tool to gently twist out the tick in one direction. Then put it in a sealed plastic bag and either put it in the outdoor bin or send it to Public Health England as part of their Tick Surveillance Scheme.

Vacuum regularly

This will help catch any ticks lurking about that have dropped off our clothing or pets.

Protect your pet with specialist treatment

Treating pets regularly at the correct interval gives them the best possible protection. Not all flea treatments also kill ticks, but our flea and tick treatments do. FRONTLINE TRI-ACT® for dogs kills new ticks within 6 hours and also repels them, which helps to prevent them from biting your dog in the first place.

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Take your dog’s parasite protection to the next level

FRONTLINE TRI-ACT® has a unique formula that kills faster1 and repels more2 disease-carrying parasites than the next leading competitor brand.


1 Compared to next leading non-prescription competitor brand and when used monthly.

2 Compared to next leading non-prescription competitor brand with repellent activity.

Regularly inspecting and treating our dogs is the best way we can protect them from tick-borne diseases like babesiosis and keep them in good health. These few simple steps give our much-loved family members the best chance of a happy, healthy life for years to come.

Get answers from the experts

Got a question about fleas, ticks or worms? We can help! Take a look at our FAQs or send us a message.

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