Vets offer advice on babesiosis outbreak in dogs

14 March 2016

A number of dogs in south-east England have been diagnosed with babesiosis, following infection with Babesia canis, a parasite transferred between animals by ticks.

Although found in mainland Europe, Babesia canis is rare in the UK, especially in dogs that haven’t travelled to/from other EU countries or come into contact with those that have.

Responding to this outbreak, Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: 
“It is concerning that the current cases of Babesia canis are the first to suggest that the disease is circulating in UK - and dog owners will understandably be feeling anxious about the reported cases. Prevention is always better than cure and we’d recommend that owners discuss year-round parasite control, including tick prevention treatments, with their local vet.

“BVA lobbied hard against the relaxing of controls under the EU Pet Travel Scheme, which included removing the requirement for tick treatment to prevent parasites such as Babesia canis being introduced into the country, and it is disappointing to see our concerns potentially becoming a reality.

Owners should check pets for ticks after walks and if one is found on the body it should be removed completely using a commercially available  tick-remover or fine-pointed tweezers, even if they are dead. If owners have any concerns about their dog or suspect any signs such as weakness, pale gums or “coffee-coloured” urine then they should contact their vet immediately.”

It is important to note that dog owners as well as members of the veterinary profession can send any ticks they might find to Public Health England’s Tick Recording Scheme or the Big Tick Project for identification.

If veterinary surgeons would like more information on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of babesia canis infection, BSAVA’s scientific team have developed guidance.

BVA Media Office