Piroplasmosis in dogs: causes, symptoms, treatment

With the onset of spring, all nature comes to life. After a long hibernation, not only midges, butterflies, flies wake up, but also dangerous insects - ixodid ticks. Most dog owners prefer to walk their four-legged pets in a forested area, where the animal can frolic to its fullest.

Sometimes such walks for pets end in tears, and this is due to the bloodsucker who carries a disease that is dangerous for dogs - piroplasmosis. Without proper treatment, the dog almost always dies, so it is necessary to recognize the signs and symptoms of a terrible disease in a timely manner and treat the animal from a parasitic infection as soon as possible.

What is piroplasmosis

The disease is caused by an intracellular parasite, babesia, which is very small in size and parasitizes in the victim's red blood cells. The carrier of the disease is the ixodid tick (intermediate host), after the bite of which the microorganism enters the dog's body and begins to destroy the red blood cells of the animal.

Babesias can be found in the stomach, genitals and salivary glands of the tick, and even be transmitted to the offspring of the insect. At the time of the dog's bite, the tick digs deep into its skin, sucks the animal's blood, and then injects it back into the wound. As soon as the microscopic parasite enters the bloodstream, it invades red blood cells (erythrocytes), begins to feed on the contents of the cell and actively multiply.

After the blood cell is completely destroyed, the microorganism leaves its shelter and goes in search of new red blood cells. Macrophages (immune cells) capture and remove destroyed red blood cells from the body, but since piroplasmosis quickly destroys a significant number of blood cells, macrophages cannot cope with their task. An animal infected with piroplasmosis begins to suffer from severe intoxication.

What is the danger of piroplasmosis

Red blood cells (erythrocytes) are involved in the delivery of oxygen to the organs and tissues of the dog. In addition, red blood cells absorb carbon dioxide released during the combustion of oxygen. Significant death of red blood cells leads to cell starvation, the animal simply does not have enough oxygen.

Destroyed blood cells must be quickly removed from the body, otherwise severe intoxication will occur. The metabolic organs (spleen, kidneys and liver) begin to work hard.

A large number of destroyed red blood cells often cause blockage of the renal tubules, as a result of which blood clots form in the kidneys and, as a result, renal failure.

Pyroplasmosis (acute or chronic) puts a strong strain on the dog's cardiac and respiratory function. The respiratory and hematopoietic organs begin to work in an enhanced mode, trying to compensate for the small amount of oxygen and an excess of carbon dioxide from the tissue cells.

Symptoms of piroplasmosis

First of all, you need to make sure that the dog has been bitten by a tick, since piroplasmosis does not have the ability to be transmitted from a sick animal to a healthy one. Finding a bloodsucker can sometimes be difficult, especially if the dog has thick and long hair.

The blood-sucking parasite itself has a relatively small body size (no more than 0.5 mm), but when the insect drinks blood, it is not difficult to notice it. The mite looks like a small crab or spider, clinging tightly to the skin of a dog. Having found such an "uninvited guest" from your pet, you urgently need to take measures to remove the insect.

The incubation period of the disease ranges from 2 days to 3 weeks after Babesia infection. As a rule, it depends on the age and state of health of the four-legged pet.

In dogs with various chronic diseases, as well as weakened and emaciated animals, the first signs of piroplasmosis appear already several days after the tick bite. In younger and stronger pets, the period of development of the disease lasts up to 20 days, sometimes more.

It is important to pay attention to the general symptoms of piroplasmosis, manifested in varying degrees of severity:

  • an increase in the body temperature of the animal up to 42ᵒC;
  • loss of interest in walking, games;
  • refusal of feed;
  • apathy and lethargy of the animal;
  • vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes with blood) ;
  • discoloration of urine (urine becomes dark brown);
  • increased breathing rate.

Some owners are not able to react in time to these changes in the pet's health, considering the listed symptoms as a sign of simple malaise. In most cases, the disease takes on a severe form, so you need to carefully look at your pet in order not to miss precious time for treatment.

In the acute form of the disease, the symptoms appear as:

  • shortness of breath and heavy breathing;
  • yellowness of tooth enamel;
  • blue discoloration, redness or yellowness of the mucous membranes;
  • complete refusal of feed;
  • rapid and weak heartbeat;
  • violation or complete absence of any movement;
  • weakness of the hind limbs;
  • prolonged vomiting and diarrhea;
  • complete or partial paralysis of the front and hind legs, accompanied by convulsions.

Important! The acute course of piroplasmosis is extremely dangerous for the life of the dog, because without proper veterinary assistance, the animal dies within a few days.

The chronic form of piroplasmosis is accompanied by sluggish symptoms and can proceed for a long time (from 3 to 7 weeks). It is very difficult to suspect a disease in this case, since the only symptoms will be constant apathy and fatigue of the animal.

If you make a blood test of a sick dog, then a decrease in the level of red blood cells can be noted in it, which indicates the presence of piroplasmosis. In the absence of therapy, the animal almost always dies. The chronic form of the disease is recorded in very rare cases.

There is one more course of piroplasmosis - latent or hidden. All concomitant diseases will be absent, which is very dangerous for the life of the dog, therefore, after the animal is bitten by a tick, you should carefully monitor the condition of the pet. It is best to conduct a laboratory blood test (a few days after a bloodsucker bite), as well as provide the four-legged pet with decent conditions of detention.

Diagnosis of piroplasmosis

The diagnosis of piroplasmosis should be made only by a veterinarian, using a number of laboratory measures for this. First of all, the doctor will conduct a clinical examination of the sick dog, but since the symptoms of the disease may be weak or absent altogether, the following methods are prescribed:

  1. Clinical and biochemical blood test to detect babesia in erythrocytes.
  2. Polymer chain reaction for parasite antigen detection.
  3. Urine analysis to determine the color of the biological fluid and the presence of hemoglobin in urine.
  4. Examination of the ixodid tick removed from the dog's body for the presence of parasites in the bloodsucker.

In some cases, a second diagnosis may be required, since at the initial stages of the disease, the presence of babesia in the blood cannot be established.

First aid for piroplasmosis

If the owner of the dog finds that the pet has been bitten by an ixodid tick, it is necessary to remove the parasite as soon as possible. Using tweezers, the bloodsucker is carefully removed from the animal's body, making sure that the tick head does not remain in the wound.

The site of the bite is treated with an antiseptic and the condition of the animal is carefully observed during the first 3 days. The parasite must be delivered to the laboratory as soon as possible to exclude or confirm piroplasmosis.

At home, it is only allowed to inject medicinal substances through a catheter installed in the animal's paw. Any amateur activity (treating a dog with folk remedies, self-prescribing medications) can only aggravate the condition of a four-legged pet. All medical manipulations should be performed only by a veterinarian.

Treatment of piroplasmosis

After an accurate diagnosis has been made, the veterinarian will prescribe an individual treatment regimen. First of all, it is necessary to rid the dog's body of microscopic parasites. For this, highly toxic drugs are used:

  • Imidosan;
  • Pyrostop;
  • Azidine;
  • Berenil.

After the introduction of drugs, the pet may experience a deterioration due to the poisoning of the body with dead parasites and destroyed blood cells.

At this time, it is very important to maintain the function of many organs that work for wear and tear (liver, heart, kidneys, immune system).

Supportive therapy is needed using:

  • hepatoprotectors;
  • saline solutions;
  • vitamin complexes;
  • heart funds;
  • glucose solution.

In especially severe cases, plasmapheresis and blood transfusion are used. Due to the high cost, the blood purification procedure is not performed in all veterinary clinics.

A sick animal is prescribed a special diet that reduces the intake of fats and protein, as well as raw vegetables and fruits. Fermented milk products must be introduced into the dog's diet. A biochemical study of blood and urine is carried out every 2 weeks in order to monitor the dynamics of the animal's condition.

Consequences of piroplasmosis

The disease almost always leaves a negative imprint on the dog's body. Due to the transferred piroplasmosis, the animal is diagnosed with serious complications from important organs and systems:

  • heart failure;
  • damage to the central nervous system;
  • hepatic and renal failure;
  • cerebral ischemia;
  • toxic hepatitis of the liver due to severe intoxication of the body;
  • arrhythmia;
  • anemia;
  • decrease in the protective properties of the body;
  • inflammation of the pancreas.

The earlier the diagnosis is made and effective treatment is started, the lower the risk of complications in the dog.

Prevention of piroplasmosis

There is no vaccine that is 100% protective against piroplasmosis, but regular vaccinations can reduce the risk of the disease. After the vaccination, the animal is protected from the disease for 6 months, but this does not mean that Babesias will not be able to enter the dog's body. After inoculation, an environment is formed in the animal's blood that does not allow babesia to multiply actively, which means that the disease will proceed in a milder form.

Preventive measures include only the protection of a four-legged pet from a tick bite. You can reduce the likelihood of an attack by bloodsuckers with:

  • special drops applied to the withers of the animal;
  • sprays from blood-sucking insects;
  • flea and tick collars .

After applying drops to the withers of the animal, you need to make sure that the pet does not accidentally lick the drug. All insecticides are highly toxic and can cause severe poisoning in dogs. To protect against intoxication, you can use a special veterinary collar worn around the animal's neck.

After walking in the forested area, the dog should be examined for bloodsuckers. If bloodsuckers are found, they are carefully removed from the dog's body and taken to a laboratory to establish the presence of the disease.

A dog bitten by a tick is provided with full care and closely monitored for the health of the pet. In the event of any suspicious symptoms, the animal should be immediately shown to a specialist.

Piroplasmosis in a dog is a serious disease that is almost always fatal. To protect your pet from ixodid ticks and microscopic parasites, you need to follow the rules of prophylaxis when walking dogs. If any symptoms of the disease occur, you should not hope for the pet's self-recovery, and even more so, you cannot self-medicate. Only an experienced veterinarian can save the animal from illness and keep the dog alive.


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