Babesiosis | Piroplasmosis – Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

babesiosis in animals

Babesiosis is a non-contagious zoonotic disease caused by a number of protozoa belonging to the genus Babesia. Ticks are responsible for the transmission of protozoa. In this article, we will talk in detail about babesiosis, how it can be prevented and if animals get infected then how it can be treated. So let’s get into it.

Other Names: Piroplasmosis, Redwater, Tick fever, Rat Motra رت موترا.

Cause of Babesiosis in Animals:

Babesiosis in animals is caused by a number of protozoans that belong to the genus Babesia, order Piroplasmida in the phylum of Apicomplexans. Babesia species were traditionally classified based on morphology, vector, and host specificity; however, recent molecular characterizations indicate greater complexity.

Babesia SpecieHostTick genus
Babesia ovisGoatRhipicephalus bursa
Babesia motasiSheep Haemaphysalis spp
Babesia divergensCattleIxides ricinus
Babesia majorCattleHaemaphysalis punctata
Babesia equi or caballiHorsesRhipicephalusDermacentor, and Hyalomma
Babesia trautmanni PigsRhipicephalus spp
B canisB vogeli, and B rossiDogs, catsDermacentor reticularis , B vogeli by Rhipicephalus sanguineus , and B rossi by Haemaphysalis elliptica


Babesia divergens is a small parasite whereas B major, on the other hand, is a large Babesia with a lower pathogenicity. Theileria equi is a small parasite that is far more dangerous than B caballi.

Transmission of Babesiosis in Animals

Ticks transmit protozoa into the bodies of animals, causing infection. The trophozoites/sporozoites are ingested into the animal by ticks. Trophozoites invade RBCs and multiply via binary fission to form two or more trophozoites. Such rapid multiplication causes RBCs to burst and merozoites to be released.

When ticks feed on the blood of infected animals. Gametocytes enter the tick, and gametogony occurs in the tick’s gut. Ookinetes enter the salivary glands, followed by sporogony, and finally, sporozoites enter the saliva. The tick is now ready to infest another healthy animal.

Learn more about how humans get infected with babesia

Clinical Signs of Babesiosis in Animals

Acute babesiosis typically lasts one week or less. The first clinical signs are lethargy, weakness, depression, and fever (frequently 106°F [41°C]), which persist throughout the disease; these are later followed by inappetence, anemia, jaundice, and weight loss; hemoglobinemia and hemoglobinuria occur in the final stages. B bovis infections can cause CNS involvement due to parasitized erythrocyte adhesion in brain capillaries. Late-term pregnant cows may abort, and bulls may experience temporary infertility due to transient fever. Many animals recover; however, if not treated, some may die.

Animals that recover from the acute disease can be infected with B bovis for years or B bigemina for a few months. During this carrier, no clinical signs are visible.

Postmortem Findings

Lesions discovered after death. Postmortem lesions (especially those caused by B bovis) include the following:

Swollen liver with enlarged gallbladder containing thick granular bile congested, dark-colored kidneys generalized anemia, and jaundice. Most B bigemina clinical cases have hemoglobinuria; however, this is not always the case with B bovis. Congestion or petechiae may appear in other organs, including the brain and heart.

Diagnosis of Babesiosis in Animals

It is a well-renowned saying that ” forget the treatment, diagnosis is everything. ” Diagnosis of every disease revolves around 3 things

1- History

2- Clinical signs

3- Lab test for isolation of the causative agent

Light microscopy of Giemsa-stained blood or organ smears is required to confirm the diagnosis. Light microscopy is quick and inexpensive, but it does require some knowledge. Blood smears from capillaries, such as the ear or tail tip, should be prepared from the live animal to improve the sensitivity of detection of B bovis, because B bovis-infected erythrocytes adhere to capillary endothelium.

5 Easy Steps to Diagnose Babesiosis in Animals using Hypothetical Case Presentation

Treatment of Babesiosis in Animals

Treatment of Babesiosis in animals includes specific treatment with babesiacides and supportive care to prevent other secondary infections.

Specific Treatment

To treat bovine babesiosis, a variety of babesiacidal drugs have been used; however, only diminazene aceturate and imidocarb dipropionate are still widely used. These medications are not available in all endemic countries, or their use is limited. The instructions for use provided by the manufacturer should be followed. Diminazene is given to cattle at a dose of 3.5 mg/kg, IM, once. To treat, 1.2 mg/kg SC imidocarb is administered once.

Supportive Treatment

Supportive care is recommended, especially in valuable animals, and may include anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and fluid therapy. Blood transfusions may save the lives of severely anemic animals.

Note: Trypan blue is an effective drug in canine babesiosis. A single I/V injection of 4-5ml of 1% solution is usually effective for an average size dog(16kg)

Prevention of Babesiosis in Animals

Prevention of Babesiosis in animals includes the following:

  • Tick Control
  • Vaccination

Tick control, whether through acaricides or management practices, can help to reduce tick burdens, which can lower transmission rates. Acaricide resistance is also becoming more of an issue. However, acaricidal tick control prior to transporting animals from tick-infested areas is beneficial in preventing the spread of ticks and babesiosis to tick-free areas.
Vaccination with live attenuated strains of Babesia parasites has proven effective. There are currently no commercial vaccines based on recombinant antigens.

Note: Breeds based on Bos indicus are commonly used to reduce production losses caused by ticks and babesiosis.


Babesia in animals is a zoonotic protozoal disease caused by ticks. Babesiosis is characterized by fever and intravascular hemolysis, which can lead to progressive anemia, hemoglobinuria, and jaundice, as well as death. Light microscopic examination of blood smears is used to make the diagnosis. Imidocarb dipropionate and diminazene aceturate are the most commonly used treatments. In some countries, control is achieved through chemotherapy, vector control, and vaccination.

Some Related Topics:

Anthrax in Animals

PPR in Animals

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