2011 Sep 8;181(1):48-60. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2011.04.023. Epub 2011 Apr 19.

Babesiosis in dogs and cats–expanding parasitological and clinical spectra.


Canine babesiosis caused by different Babesia species is a protozoal tick-borne disease with worldwide distribution and global significance. Historically, Babesia infection in dogs was identified based on the morphologic appearance of the parasite in the erythrocyte. All large forms of Babesia were designated Babesia canis, whereas all small forms of Babesia were considered to be Babesia gibsoni. However, the development of molecular methods has demonstrated that other Babesia species such as Babesia conradae, Babesia microti like piroplasm, Theileria spp. and a yet unnamed large form Babesia spp. infect dogs and cause distinct diseases. Babesia rossi, B. canis and Babesia vogeli previously considered as subspecies are identical morphologically but differ in the severity of clinical manifestations which they induce, their tick vectors, genetic characteristics, and geographic distributions, and are therefore currently considered separate species. The geographic distribution of the causative agent and thus the occurrence of babesiosis are largely dependent on the habitat of relevant tick vector species, with the exception of B. gibsoni where evidence for dog to dog transmission indicates that infection can be transmitted among fighting dog breeds independently of the limitations of vector tick infestation. Knowledge of the prevalence and clinicopathological aspects of Babesia species infecting dogs around the world is of epidemiologic and medical interest. Babesiosis in domestic cats is less common and has mostly been reported from South Africa where infection is mainly due to Babesia felis, a small Babesia that causes anemia and icterus. In addition, Babesia cati was reported from India and sporadic cases of B. canis infection in domestic cats have been reported in Europe, B. canis presentii in Israel and B. vogeli in Thailand. Babesiosis caused by large Babesia spp. is commonly treated with imidocarb dipropionate with good clinical response while small Babesia spp. are more resistant to anti-babesial therapy. Clinical and parasitological cure are often not achieved in the treatment of small Babesia species infections and clinical relapses are frequent. The spectrum of Babesia pathogens that infect dogs and cats is gradually being elucidated with the aid of molecular techniques and meticulous clinical investigation. Accurate detection and species recognition are important for the selection of the correct therapy and prediction of the course of disease.



And so it is with humans:

  • different Babesia species cause different clinical symptoms as well as disease severity
  • Babesia can persist causing clinical relapses

Notice the dog to dog transmission. We know for sure that Babesia is transmitted via ticks, blood transfusion, congenitally, via organ transplants, as well as through stem cells:

The dog to dog transmission should cause us all to pause and consider.

I’ve read numerous times this year how dogs or cats licking or scratching their owners caused various diseases. Could Babesia be spread in this manner?  Nobody seems to be doing this sort of work despite its importance.

And lastly, we know that those infected with BOTH Babesia and Lyme have greater symptom severity as well as duration of illness.  (See Babesia treatment link above for this information)