Babesia canis is a parasite inhabiting the red blood cells of dogs and other canines such as foxes. Once established, Babesia canis may cause severe health issues for these canines, although, some breeds of dogs and other canine species are more susceptible to Babesia canis than others (Chauvin, et al. 2009) while some strains and subspecies of Babesia canis are more parasitic than others (Shortt,1973 and Chauvin et. al. 2009). Babesia canis targets and soon destructs the canine’s erythrocytes, or red blood cells, eventually causing severe anemia. This is the result of Babesia canis invading the red blood cells and using the resources within to complete their life cycle. Once able, the parasites lyse the cell and leave the ruptured cell to find additional erythrocytes to multiply in (French et al.). The parasite multiplies and spreads throughout the blood stream and untreated infections may even cause organ failure and death in the host (Kubelova et al. 2011).


The first symptoms of infection may appear only days after the parasite has been established. The canine host will experience lethargy, a loss in weight, appetite, fur vibrancy, and strength. Pale eye and nose mucus as well as pale gums are a sign of anemia which is the main symptom of canine Babesiosis. Dark urine, raised body temperature, and even vomiting may occur as well in more severe cases. Without treatment it may lead to death, or in less virulent cases, a chronic parasitism (Shortt 1973 and Schoeman 2009).  Diagnosis is usually performed through a blood smear and treatment is often available with an 80% or higher survival rate (Scheoman 2009). For more information on canine babesiosis and its diagnosis, treatment, and prevention measures, please visit

 However, Babesia canis also requires a vector host, such as a tick, in order to reproduce, grow, and later be transmitted into the canine host.  A tick must first bite an infected dog to receive the parasite, which populates the blood cells taken up from the dog and ingested by the tick. These ingested parasites are, for the most part, killed. However, some undeveloped stages of Babesia canis remain intact. These undeveloped gametes soon develop and fuse with the tick’s digestive tract, forming a zygote that breaks into the digestive system to undergo meiosis, creating multiple new early-stage parasites. These parasites move and grow throughout various tissues of the tick’s body, including the eggs in a female host (Chauvin et al. 2009). Babesia canis─infected eggs may later produce Babesia canis─infected adult ticks as well. Ultimately, the early forms of this parasite move into the salivary glands of the tick host and fully mature into their infectious stage before the being passed on to another canine host via tick bite (Chauvin et al. 2009). In order for this eventual transfer from vector host to canine host, Babesia canis may remain in the tick’s body for    up to several years.

 Three species of ticks are inhabited specifically by the three different subspecies of Babesia canis depending on the geographical location of the parasite.  This includes the tick species Dermacentor riticulatus, being mainly from Europe, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, found in subtropical and tropical regions, and Haemaphysalis leachi, which are native to South Africa (Uilenberg et al. 1989, and Schoeman 2009).

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