Clinical management of canine babesiosis


  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Ashley Ayoob, Department of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd St, New York, NY 10065, USA. Email:


Objective – To review and summarize current information regarding epidemiology, pathogenesis, and pathophysiology leading to the various clinical syndromes associated with canine babesiosis. Diagnosis, treatment, preventative strategies, and zoonotic implications are discussed.

Etiology – Babesiosis is caused by hemoprotozoa of the genus Babesia. Numerous species of Babesia exist worldwide. An increased incidence of babesiosis is described, especially in North America. The babesial organism spends the majority of its life cycle within the erythrocyte of the definitive host, resulting in hemolysis, with or without systemic complications.

Diagnosis – Definitive diagnosis depends on direct visualization of the organism on blood smear or polymerase chain reaction. A positive serologic antibody test indicates exposure with or without active infection.

Therapy – Antiprotozoal drugs, antimicrobials, and supportive care are the mainstays of babesiosis therapy.

Prognosis – Prognosis depends on the severity of disease, which in turn depends on both organism and host factors. Clinical syndromes associated with a poorer prognosis include red biliary syndrome, acute renal failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, neurologic dysfunction, acute pancreatitis, cardiac dysfunction, and hypoglycemia.