Canine babesiosis continues to create challenges for practitioners - DVM
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Canine babesiosis continues to create challenges for practitioners


DVM Best Practices


Prevention The best method of prevention in endemic areas is aggressive control of the tick vector. An effective topical acaricide combined with a flea/tick collar is usually very efficacious in preventing tick exposure.

Owners should inspect their dogs daily for ticks. Prompt removal of ticks within 24 hours should prevent disease transmission, because it has been reported that the tick must be attached for two to three days to transmit the organism. In kennels where puppies are being lost to disease, aggressive tick-control measures should be instituted including spraying the environment as well as treating animals. Although it has not been proven, it is likely that any blood-sucking insect that moves from dog to dog could directly transmit the organism through blood contamination. Therefore, an insecticide that prevents biting flies, fleas, and mosquitoes would have the best chance of preventing spread of this organism in a kennel situation.

Because babesiosis can be vertically transmitted from dam to offspring, serologic testing should be carried out to remove infected dogs from the breeding pool.

To avoid transmission through blood contamination, poor kennel practices such as sharing needles for vaccination or re-using surgical instruments for tail docking and ear cropping should be avoided. Dogs with positive babesia titers should never be used as blood donors. More stringent regulations concerning serologic testing, quarantine and treatment of dogs entering the United States from endemic areas may prevent continued spread of the disease into this country. Dog fighting should obviously be avoided, because it is also a potential method for spreading disease.


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Treatment of asymptomatic dogs with subclinical infection is controversial, and it is not known how effective treatment is in eliminating the carrier state. However, treatment with imidocarb followed by a negative PCR test in two months may help eliminate the reservoir of disease. Development of new vaccines, such as the French vaccination for B. canis canis, is needed because there is no cross-protection for the different babesia organisms. As evidence mounts concerning the spread of this emerging tick-borne disease to new areas, continued research is needed to determine better methods of prevention and treatment.

Dr. Douglass Macintire received her veterinary degree from Texas A&M University in 1980. In 1981, she completed a one-year internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Louisiana State University. From 1981-84, she completed a residency in small animal medicine at Auburn University. She also received a master of science degree in veterinary medicine from Auburn University. From 1984-1990, She taught emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 1986. In 1990, she became the first individual to pass the certification examination issued by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. She is a professor at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine where she teaches emergency medicine and is the co-director of the Auburn University Critical Care Service. Dr. Macintire has spoken extensively on subjects pertaining to emergency medicine and critical care and infectious diseases to both national and international audiences. She serves as the small animal editor for Compendium on Continuing Education for the practicing veterinarian.


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