Two new cases of Babesia canis have been confirmed in untravelled UK dogs, lending weight to predictions from leading parasitologists the disease could spread this autumn and next spring.

Ticks feeding
Dermacentor reticulatus ticks feeding (male: yellow arrow, female: red arrow). For more information on Babesia, read Tackle Ticks: Babesiosis by Simon Tappin. Image: Merial.

The first recorded cluster of infection in non-travelled UK dogs was confirmed by the APHA last spring. Five cases were all traced back to a small area popular with dog walkers in Harlow, Essex.

Subsequent testing identified the presence of the tick Dermacentor reticulatus acting as vectors of the introduced pathogen Babesia canis.

Now, two fresh cases have emerged at the same practice in Romford, Essex.

Aware of symptoms

Kelly Smyth, manager of the Best Friends Veterinary Group practice in Romford, said two vets – Melina Mihaylova, originally from Bulgaria, and Alina Ancuta, from Romania – attended to the Labrador retriever. Both were aware of the symptoms and dangers of Babesia as it is endemic in their native countries.

Although initial blood tests were negative, the owners were advised to keep a close eye on the dog and return if its condition deteriorated. Two weeks later, the dog was back with lethargy, fever, refusing food and vomiting.

Fresh blood tests were positive for babesiosis and the animal was referred to the RVC’s Queen Mother Hospital for Animals.

‘Textbook symptoms’

Dr Mihaylova explained they saw Babesia cases “quite often” in Bulgaria and it was routine in their clinics to conduct blood tests on animals bitten by ticks.

She said: “Babesia is a very common problem back at home and during my training – which wasn’t long ago – we had specific lessons to be able to expect and identify it. When I came to the UK, I didn’t expect it here, but I heard the media reports earlier this year, so knew it was possible when the dog presented with textbook symptoms.”

In the other case, a Labrador retriever, believed to be 12 years old, was dead on arrival at the Romford clinic. Dr Ancuta said ticks were found on the animal and blood samples were taken. Those samples subsequently tested positive for Babesia.

Parasitologist Ian Wright, head of the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites UK and Ireland, predicted to Veterinary Times earlier this year further cases were likely this autumn, as well as next spring.

  • Further reaction can be found in the 31 October issue of Veterinary Times.
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Rajdeep
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3 months 22 days ago

Hi , I too lost my pug because of this virus … blood test confirmed it to positive.

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