• Open Access

Babesiosis Caused by a Large Babesia Species in 7 Immunocompromised Dogs


  • These results were reported in part at the 2008 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, San Antonio, TX.

Corresponding author: Adam J. Birkenheuer, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Department of Clinical Sciences, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, 4700 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27606; e-mail: ajbirken@ncsu.edu.


Background: A large unnamed Babesia species was detected in a dog with lymphoma. It was unknown if this was an underrecognized pathogen.

Objective: Report the historical and clinicopathologic findings in 7 dogs with babesiosis caused by a large unnamed Babesia species characterize the 18S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) genes.

Animals: Seven immunocompromised dogs from which the Babesia was isolated.

Methods: Retrospective case review. Cases were identified by a diagnostic laboratory, the attending clinicians were contacted and the medical records were reviewed. The Babesia sp. 18S rRNA genes were amplified and sequenced.

Results: Six of 7 dogs had been splenectomized; the remaining dog was receiving oncolytic drugs. Lethargy, anorexia, fever, and pigmenturia were reported in 6/7, 6/7, 4/7, and 3/7 dogs. Laboratory findings included mild anemia (7/7) and severe thrombocytopenia (6/7). Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays used to detect Babesia sensu stricto species were all positive, but specific PCR assays for Babesia canis and Babesia gibsoni were negative in all dogs. The 18S rRNA gene sequences were determined to be identical to a large unnamed Babesia sp. previously isolated. Cross-reactive antibodies against other Babesia spp. were not always detectable. Five dogs were treated with imidocarb dipropionate and 1 dog with atovaquone/azithromycin; some favorable responses were noted. The remaining dog was untreated and remained a clinically stable carrier.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Dogs with pigmenturia, anemia, and thrombocytopenia should be tested for Babesia sp. by PCR. Serology is not sufficient for diagnosis of this Babesia sp. Asplenia, chemotherapy, or both might represent risk factors for persistent infection, illness, or both.