Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Babesia canis

Synonym(s): B. canis

Contributor(s): Stephen Kania, Alex Morrow, Ian Wright




  • Phylum: Apicomplexa.
  • Class: Sporozoea.
  • Subclass: Piroplasmea.
  • Order: Piroplasmida.
  • Family: Babesiidae.
  • Genus: Babesia.
  • Three subtypes or strains exist:
    • Babesia canis canis.
    • Babesia canis vogeli: only subtype common in North America.
    • Babesia canis rossi.

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Clinical Effects



  • Via tick bite - the principal vector is Rhipicephalus sanguineus Rhipicephalus sanguineus also transmitted by dermacentor, hemaphysalis and hyalomma species.
  • B. canis canis is transmitted by D. reticulatus Dermacentor reticulatusB. canis vogeli by R. sanguineus and B. canis rossi by H. leachi.
  • Rarely transplacental or by blood transfusion.

Pathological effects

  • Premunition- chronically infected dogs, where immune response vs parasite is 'balanced'.
  • Infection of erythrocytes → intravascular and extravascular hemolysis.
  • A wide variety of clinical manifestations may be seen.
  • In the majority of cases: incubation period of 10-21 days, then fever, malaise, depression, lethargy and anorexia occur together with signs of hemolytic anemia. Death usually occurs at this stage.
  • In chronic cases: irregular temperature, intermittent anorexia and loss of condition.
  • Different strains ofB. canishave varying pathogenicity.


Control via animal

  • Regular treatment of dogs and kennels to prevent tick infestation.
  • Some dogs in endemic areas remain immune in the presence of a very low parasitemia. Dogs that have receovered from clinical disease may also remain carriers. These dogs should not be used as blood donors.

Control via chemotherapies

  • Imidocarb dipropionate.
  • Clindamycin Clindamycin.
  • Doxycycline Doxycycline.
  • Treatment is of clinical babesiosis and is unlikely to elilminate infection completely.

Control via environment

  • Tick control using acaricides Tick control.
  • Tick products that kill rapidly or repel/expel ticks are required as B. canis takes at least 24 hours after ticks in initial feeding to be transmitted.


  • A strain specific vaccine is available in some countries.
  • No commercial vaccine is available.

Other countermeasures

  • Chemoprophylaxis - imidocarb dipropionate (5 mg/kg IM, repeated 14 days later) is the treatment of choice.
  • Can be painful at injection site and atropine Atropine may be required to mitigate short-term side-effects.
  • Not licensed in some countries including UK.
  • If unavailable, high dose clindamycin (12.5 mg/kg per os BID) or doxycycline may be used as alternatives with some efficacy.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Swainsbury C, Bengtson G & Hill P (2016) Babesiosis in dogs. Vet Rec 178 (7), 172 PubMed.
  • Matjila P T, Penzhorn B L, Bekker C P et al (2004) Confirmation of occurrence of Babesia canis vogeli in domestic dogs in South Africa. Vet Parasitol 122 (2), 119-125 PubMed.
  • Lobetti R G (1998) Canine babesiosis. Comp Cont Ed Pract Vet 20 (4), 418-431 VetMedResource.