What is canine babesiosis?

Canine Babesiosis is a tick born disease caused by the Babesia parasite. It is not a tick, but it uses ticks to find a host and transfer itself into the bloodstream. People can be infected as well as dogs. You can read more about ticks how to remove them and Lyme disease here.

How is it transmitted?

Mainly from a bite from an infected tick. It can also be transmitted by a dog bite from an infected dog and be passed down to puppies via the placenta from an infected bitch.

What are the chances of getting it?

Canine Babesiosis common worldwide and, in the US, but has only just made an appearance in the UK. In 2011 the compulsory checking of dogs for ticks coming into the country was relaxed. Since then four dogs have been treated for it. One sadly died.


Canine Babesiosis disrupts the red blood cells the symptoms include:

  • Weakness and loss of appetite
  • Pale gums and tongue
  • Orange coloured urine
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged lympnodes or spleen

Symptoms can be mild to no symptoms at all or it can be very severe, putting your dog’s life at risk. It is difficult to diagnose, and your vet will have to do extensive blood tests and need a complete history of where you have been and your dogs likely hood of being infected.


A severely ill dog will need fluid treatment and blood transfusions and will need to be hospitalised. The drug regime for dealing with the diseases can have some serious side effects and may only deal with the symptoms and not actually remove the parasite from the blood stream. So, flare-ups can occur in times of stress and ill health.

You can also support your dog with nutraceuticals and herbs:

Dr Becker Healthy pets Mercola writes:

I put chronically ill or infected dogs on several nutraceuticals and herbs, including beta-glucans, medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, and reishi), curcumin, olive leaf, and cat’s claw. If possible, I also recommend hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy.

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Being tick aware is the main way to prevent your chihuahua from picking up this parasite. Ticks don’t jump onto your dog, they hang about in bushes and on grass stalks until your dog brushes against them. So chihuahua’s that like to romp in the grass (Minnie) need to be regularly checked for ticks. Make sure you check between their toes as well.

Clock is ticking

It takes 24 hours for the tick to infect your dog, so removing ticks promptly and in one piece (without leaving the mouth part under your dog’s skin) is important. Use a tool like a Tick Twister and follow the manufactures instructions. Do not crush the tick as you will be pushing more tick juice into your dog.

Spraying your chihuahua with a tick deterrent before you go out for a walk is a good idea. Especially as chihuahuas are close to the ground, so rubbing it all over their belly, under the arms and around the tail is a good idea. Neem oil and coconut is a good deterrent. You can get the recipe here.

We use this it’s neem oil based.

Don’t stay at home

You don’t want to become a stay-at-home, getting out in the fresh air is important for both you and your chihuahua. It is good for everyone’s physical & mental health and, just because chihuahuas are small doesn’t mean they don’t need to get out. Chihuahuas love a good sniff and a run about just like bigger breeds.

But, be mindful of where you are walking, maybe stay away from places that cattle or livestock graze and with lots of long grass. If you remove a tick, think about keeping it so you can show your vet if you are worried.

Take away:

Babesiosis is common in the US and around the world, but relatively new in the UK so the chances of your dog picking up an infection is still rare.

But, it pays to be tick aware and to make sure you check your chi and remove any your find promptly as they spread a variety of other diseases and can cause infection around the puncture wound.