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Dog pyroplasmosis is a deadly disease


Pyroplasmosis or babesiosis is a disease that affects the red blood cells of an animal, characterized by anemia (pallor of the mucous membranes).

The disease affects most species of domestic and wild animals, the causative agent of the disease - Piroplasma canispenetrates the body of an animal and actively destroys red blood cells - red blood cells.

Infection of a pet occurs with a tick bite affected by babesia or pyroplasma.

The peak of infections occurs in late spring and early fall, due to the massive activation of ticks of the genus Ixodes.

How does pyroplasmosis infection occur

Unicellular parasites are the causative agent of an infectious disease. Penetrating into red blood cells, pyroplasmas destroy them. Up to 30 pathogens can be present in one blood cell, thus filling red blood cells with babesias and their further destruction.

In advanced cases of the disease, unicellular microorganisms are found not only in red blood cells, but also in blood plasma.

The carriers of the disease are ixodid ticks that are at the stage of puberty. Favorable conditions for the development of ixodid ticks and the defeat of their babesia is a humid and hot climate.

A dog can pick up an ixodid tick in the warm season in places where there are green spaces - in a forest, city park, on the territory of a summer cottage. In this case, most often ticks live under coniferous trees.

The mechanism of development of pyroplasmosis is the penetration of protozoa into the body of the tick. In the digestive tract of the ixodid tick, pyroplasm actively multiplies, moving to hemolymph (a kind of blood analog for ticks). Further, parasites migrate to the salivary glands of the tick, and when a dog bites a blood-sucking insect, they enter the pet's body.

Then the pyroplasma enters the systemic circulation, where red blood cells actively capture, affecting them. The infection is also dangerous because in the course of their life pyroplasma produce toxins that complicate the course of the disease and cause serious damage to the central nervous system of the animal.

Intoxication of the body and problems in the nervous regulation negatively affect the work of internal organs, causing metabolic and hematopoiesis disorders.

As a rule, in animals with diagnosed pyroplasmosis, the immune system is severely affected. Running cases of pyroplasmosis in dogs are characterized by problems in the functioning of the heart, blood vessels and lungs. General gas exchange decreases, oxygen starvation occurs, causing irreparable harm to brain tissue. As a result of reducing the number of red blood cells, inflammatory processes occur in the tissues of the body. There are problems in the functioning of the renal structures and the natural filter of the body - the liver.

Symptoms of piroplasmosis in dogs

Symptoms of piroplasmosis in dogs and the degree of their manifestation depend on the stage of the disease. An acute, fulminant and chronic form of infection is distinguished.

The incubation period (the moment from the penetration of protozoa to the onset of the first symptoms) takes from 48 hours to 3 days.

The greatest danger of pyroplasmosis is for small puppies and elderly dogs. Serious consequences for the body with pyroplasmosis in this group of animals are associated with the immune system. In young puppies, it is underdeveloped, and in older dogs, immune defense is losing ground.

With fulminant form of pyroplasmosis characteristic signs are absent. The animal sharply becomes lethargic, refuses food, and death suddenly sets in.

Acute form of infection characterized by the following features:

  • raising the body temperature of the animal to 42 degrees (normal from 38.7 to 39.1),
  • fever lasting several days (2-3 days),
  • change in blood pulsation (filamentous pulse is noted, which is difficult to feel),
  • myocardial dysfunction - arrhythmia,
  • discoloration of the mucous membranes - cyanosis, anemia or yellowness (in the later stages),
  • turbid urine of a red tint (the reason is an increased process of destruction of red blood cells).

In the absence of timely assistance, the acute stage of pyroplasmosis is characterized by the development of serious complications. The animal is weakening, can not lean on the pelvic or chest limbs, paralysis occurs. There are problems with controlling urination and bowel movements.

Chronic form of pyroplasmosis diagnosed more often in outbred dogs due to natural resistance to the pathogen. Characteristic signs of a chronic form of babesiosis in dogs are:

  • problems in the work of the hind limbs (muscle weakness),
  • discoloration of the mucous membranes - anemia,
  • refusal of food
  • apathetic and lethargic state
  • severe depletion of the body.

The chronic form of the pathological process lasts longer than 2-3 months and ends with a full recovery. But in the absence of timely qualified assistance from the veterinarian, pyroplasma can cause irreparable harm to the body.


In case of pyroplasmosis disease, part of the iron-containing protein (hemoglobin) against the background of decay is converted into bile pigments, therefore the urine of an infected dog becomes cloudy with a brown or reddish tint. Visible mucous membranes of the oral cavity and eyes, as well as the skin, subcutaneous tissue become yellow.

The occurrence of characteristic signs of pyroplasmosis in a dog is an occasion to immediately consult a specialist in a veterinary clinic.

At the examination, the doctor conducts a thorough assessment of clinical manifestations, notes the lethargy of the animal and conducts thermometry. The main diagnostic method is a smear test for the presence of unicellular parasites in the blood of a patient. In addition to the fact of the presence of pyroplasmas at the time of going to the clinic, a specialist can establish the possibility of a chronic course.

Laboratory tests, such as blood and urine sampling, are necessary for differential diagnosis.

There are a number of infections that have a similar clinical picture with pyroplasmosis:

  • leptospirosis,
  • carnivore plague
  • poisoning of the body with salts of heavy metals or zoocoumarins,
  • diseases of the kidneys and liver structures of an inflammatory nature.

After an accurate diagnosis, the veterinarian develops an individual treatment regimen, taking into account the weight of the animal, age and manifestations of the disease.

Treatment of pyroplasmosis

The doctor prescribes the course of therapy immediately, without waiting for an answer from the laboratory. Clinical signs of pyroplasmosis are sometimes enough to make a diagnosis. At any delay, an animal with a weakened immune system may die.

Therapy of pyroplasmosis consists of the following main points:

  • The appointment of antiparasitic drugs that specifically affect and destroy pyroplasma. Medications destroy the unicellular parasites themselves, but are not able to eliminate intoxication of the body against the background of the breakdown of pyroplasmas.
  • Immunomodulating drugs that have a pronounced supportive therapeutic effect on the work of the body's defenses to combat pyroplasma.
  • Prescribing drugs with a cardioprotective function to increase the efficiency of the heart and blood vessels.
  • Vitamin and mineral complexes - are necessary to maintain the body systems at the appropriate level and the speedy recovery process.
  • Hepatoprotectors - necessary to enhance the function of hepatocytes (cellular structures of the liver).

Launched cases of the development of pyroplasmosis in dogs require additional specific therapeutic measures and special medical equipment. For example, a blood transfusion system is needed to purify blood from pyroplasmas through blood transfusion, but not all veterinary clinics have such equipment.

Babesiosis diagnosed in a dog is recommended to be treated in a hospital clinic, since it is difficult to ensure proper care for the animal at home, in addition, constant monitoring of blood parameters in a sick dog is necessary. In case of emergency and a sharp deterioration in the condition of the pet, veterinarians in the clinic will be able to provide first aid.

Consequences and Complications

Timely contacting a veterinary clinic at the first manifestations of symptoms of pyroplasmosis is the key to successful treatment and recovery of the animal without complications.

In the absence of help, there is a risk of developing complications such as:

  • hemolytic jaundice,
  • kidney failure
  • problems in the functioning of the central nervous system - convulsive phenomena, lethargy, coma,
  • anemia.

Often, against the background of problems in the blood system with pyroplasmosis, the cardiovascular system suffers. One of the complications of not timely cured babesiosis is heart failure.

Pyroplasmosis causes serious harm to the body. After recovery and the disappearance of the characteristic signs of the disease, a long recovery process follows, requiring constant monitoring by the veterinarian.

Dog nutrition after pyroplasmosis

The period of rehabilitation of the animal after infection is from 1.5 weeks to 1 month.

The animal will quickly return to normal if the diet is drawn up correctly. Dietary nutrition aims to reduce the burden on the liver structure. During the rehabilitation period, you need to cook pet cereals cooked on water, low-fat meats, boiled vegetables and lactic acid products.

A dog receiving ready-made dry feeds is transferred to special holistic feeds (medical diet). Mandatory intake of vitamins that support the work of the kidneys and liver, as well as stabilizing the work of the myocardium. The dosage and type of biological additives should be recommended by a veterinarian. With severe anemia in a dog, a specialist prescribes iron preparations.

Preventative measures

In order to prevent infection of the dog with pyroplasmosis, a number of rules must be observed.

  1. First of all, it is necessary to ensure that the animal does not collide with ixodid ticks. At the peak of tick activity, it is recommended to avoid walking in parks, squares and forests. After a walk, you must carefully examine the coat and undercoat of the pet.
  2. Be sure to carry out antiparasitic treatment. It is better to give preference to high-quality drugs - drops at the withers, sprays or special collars.
  3. There is a method of protection against pyroplasmosis - immunization. The pyroplasmosis vaccine contains the pyroplasm antigen and, when introduced into the body, an immune response develops. Even with the possible fact of infection with pyroplasmosis, the course of the infection will be mild. It should be remembered that vaccination of an animal does not give a 100% guarantee and will not protect the animal from infection.
  4. Among the methods of prevention is also the introduction of special substances with an antiprotozoal effect. Injections of Imidocarb and Diminazine Aceturate give a short-term effect and protect against pyroplasmosis for a period of 7 to 28 days. This is a kind of express method used by professional hunters at the opening of the season. Within 1 year, no more than 2 injections of the drug are made, since they differ in sufficiently high toxicity.

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How infection occurs (development cycle)

Dogs infected with a tick bite are infected. When a parasite sticks to a dog, it injects its saliva into the wound, it contains special substances that prevent blood coagulation and anesthetize in such a way that the dog does not feel a bite.

The catch is that in the saliva of the tick very often there are also intracellular parasites - babesias. Once in the dog’s body, they quickly make their way into the bloodstream and enter the red blood cells, causing a dangerous disease - babesiosis, better known as pyroplasmosis.

If we talk more about the life cycle of babesias, then blood parasites go through the following stages:

  1. In the saliva of a tick of babesia are in the stage of sporozoites. This stage is invasive, in other words, contagious. Sporozoites with a bite enter the dog’s blood. Penetrating into red blood cells, sporozoites become trophozoites.
  2. Trophozoites are the stage of babesia that develops inside red blood cells (red blood cells). They feed on hemoglobin. As they develop, trophozoites multiply by simple division, thus, two daughter cells, merozoites, are formed inside the erythrocyte.
  3. Merozoites that form inside the red blood cell eventually destroy it and enter the bloodstream. Each of the merozoites again enters the erythrocyte and becomes a trophozoite. Thus, reproduction occurs inside the dog.
  4. When a new tick gets on an already infected dog, it feeds on its blood. And along with red blood cells absorbs babesia. Once in the intestine of the tick, red blood cells are destroyed, merozoites and trophozoites come out of them, penetrate the intestinal walls, and from there they are sent to the salivary glands and gametes are formed there
  5. In the salivary glands, gametes merge (sexual reproduction) and become sporozoites.
  6. Already sporozoites along with saliva infect dogs.

What ticks carry

Not all ticks are carriers of blood parasites.

Ticks can be divided into scabies and ixodidae. Scabies are dangerous for other diseases, they have nothing to do with pyroplasmosis. "Our option", in this case, is ixodid ticks.

Whether an ixodic tick is a carrier of this disease can only be found by examining it in the laboratory. Therefore, it is better to consider all ticks to be conditionally dangerous.

A few facts you need to know about ticks:

  • Infected individuals transmit babesia to their offspring for many generations.
  • Ticks do not jump on their victims and do not fall from the trees. They climb up the grass, stretch their legs forward and cling to a potential host at a convenient moment.
  • The longer the tick feeds, the higher the risk of infection. But do not forget that in some cases, babesia can penetrate the pet immediately from the time of the bite.
  • A hungry tick is brown, and when it gets drunk blood, it becomes light gray and takes on a steel hue.

The course of the disease and symptoms

The incubation period for pyroplasmosis depends on the condition of the dog. For example, sick and weakened animals become sick faster, and in dogs that have been ill in the past, symptoms appear later.

Also, it depends on the number of babesias that originally entered the bloodstream, and therefore on the number of bitten infected ticks.

Thus, the incubation period can be from 5 days to 2 to 3 weeks.

Symptoms of the disease begin to appear when a decent amount of red blood cells is already destroyed, so if you find any of the following signs, you should immediately contact a veterinary clinic!

Symptoms develop in the following sequence:

  • behavior change - lethargy, apathy and weakness,
  • refusal of walks,
  • rapid breathing
  • temperature rise ,
  • loss of appetite
  • the main symptom is dark urine,
  • gastrointestinal upset. Vomiting and diarrhea.

  • yellowing of the mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes,
  • complete rejection of food,
  • rapid breathing, shortness of breath,
  • weakening of the hind limbs up to paralysis.

Darkening of the urine occurs when free hemoglobin and erythrocyte membranes settle in the kidneys due to the destruction of red blood cells, which leads to acute renal failure and the appearance of blood in the urine. At first, the urine just darkens, but later it can even become black.

Due to the destruction of red blood cells, anemia develops - anemia, as a result, the mucous membranes turn pale. And with the mass destruction of red blood cells, pigment metabolism is disrupted - there is an accumulation of indirect bilirubin in the blood (the bile pigment, which is formed, including during the destruction of red blood cells, is yellow). And as a result, the mucous membranes and sometimes even the teeth turn yellow.

There may be an acute and chronic course of the disease. In the acute course, we see all of the above symptoms in a bright manifestation.

Death may occur already on the third day after the first signs.

In the case of a chronic course, we may not observe many symptoms. Sometimes the disease manifests itself only in a change in the behavior of the pet. This scenario is dangerous because the owner may not attach importance to the change in the state of the pet. If untreated, death can occur after 4 to 8 weeks from the time of the bite. Often chronically, the disease occurs in dogs that have already had pyroplasmosis before.

Treatment regimen

If the dog is dehydrated, then first of all they eliminate it, since specialized anti-plasmosis drugs cannot be administered to dehydrated animals. To combat dehydration, the dog is placed under a dropper:

  • saline intravenously,
  • glucose 5% intravenously.

After solving the problem of dehydration, a dog is injected with a drug aimed at eliminating babesias.
These can be drugs with the following active substances:

  • Diminazen diaceturate. This active substance is contained in the preparations: Azidine, Neosidine, Veriben and some others. These drugs are not recommended, they are relatively outdated and have some toxicity (it can cause brain damage in some dogs). Well, with an overdose of serious side effects can not be avoided, even death, so strictly follow the instructions.
  • Imidocarba dipropionate. This active substance is included in the preparations: Imizol, Imidosan, Piro-stop, Forticarb, Diprocarb. From it there are no such negative consequences as from the previous one, and side effects, if encountered, are easily removed by atropine. This is all, of course, subject to the dosage.

Further, if necessary, we introduce additional symptomatic therapy:

  • heart and respiratory support drugs
  • vitamins
  • immunomodulators
  • hepatoprotectors are often prescribed completely unreasonably. They are necessary only if the liver cells are seriously affected.

In very severe cases, blood purification may be necessary (when the animal’s blood, roughly speaking, is run through the filter from the outside and reintroduced into the body) or transfusion.

Pyroplasmosis vaccinations

Yes, vaccines for pyroplasmosis do exist, but their effect is ambiguous.
Firstly, any vaccine does not provide 100% protection. A vaccine against pyroplasmosis does produce a very low immunity. Almost does not protect the dog from the disease, but only smoothes out the clinical symptoms and facilitates the course. So if a vaccinated dog is bitten by a tick, most likely it will still get infected.

Secondly, just this vaccine action - smoothing out clinical symptoms, can play a trick on us. You risk not noticing such alarming signs of the disease, because the effect of the vaccine will not allow them to manifest. And this is dangerous because you do not seek help during and the outcome can be fatal.

Dog care

Pet care after relieving pyroplasmosis depends on how much damage the dog caused to the body. Based on this, individual treatment is prescribed.

Your task includes:

  • give the dog the necessary medication prescribed by the veterinarian,
  • limit physical activity,
  • follow a diet.

On average, a full recovery of an animal after recuperation with pyroplasmosis occurs after 6 months.


Prevention is the timely treatment of external parasites.

To protect against ticks, there are:

  • Tablets (Bravecto, Nexgard, Symparika). Provides long lasting and reliable protection.
  • Drops at the withers (Stronghold, Front Line, Bars, Beafar and others). They provide reliable protection, be sure to process every 3 to 4 weeks, depending on the chosen product.
  • Collars They do not give reliable protection, can be used only in conjunction with other drugs.
  • Sprays It does not provide long-term protection. It is recommended to use before traveling to nature in addition to other means of protection.

Also always carry a special “twist” of ticks with you so that you can quickly react and remove the parasite from the pet.

Many owners are wondering how the tablets are protected if the tick bites anyway and only then dies. Everything ingenious is simple.

We have already described for you the development cycle of the causative agent of pyroplasmosis, and from there it is clear that the invasive (infectious) stage of babesia forms in the salivary glands. The fact is that until the tick begins to feed, its salivary glands are in an inactive state, and babesia in them is also in an inactive state. The sporocyst (infectious stage) begins its development only after the tick begins to feed on the dog, and ripens only after a few hours.

And when your pet is processed, the sporocyst will not have this time for development, because the tick will not linger on the dog for a long time, it dies almost immediately, as it “sucks”.

But despite this, in any case, if you notice a tick on the dog, contact your veterinarian. After all, there may be various unforeseen circumstances, and for your peace of mind, and for the health of the pet, it will be better to contact the clinic.

Popular questions

If pyroplasmosis in a pregnant dog?

Unfortunately, if a pregnant dog becomes infected with pyroplasmosis, in the vast majority of cases, puppies die. Therefore, it is very important to do a follow-up ultrasound, so that in the event of fetal death, provide timely assistance to your pet.

Is the disease transmitted from dog to dog, and can a person become infected from the dog?

The causative agent of the disease is blood parasite, so transmission from one animal to another is possible only with carriers - ticks.

Is re-infection possible?

Yes, it is possible that only symptoms can be less pronounced or, in rare cases, completely asymptomatic - a chronic course.

What is the most dangerous season for the infection?

The most dangerous seasons are when ticks appear, and this is from mid-spring to mid-autumn.

How to feed a dog after pyroplasmosis?

The diet should be prescribed by a veterinarian, depending on which organs are affected and the general condition of the dog.

Can I breed a dog after pyroplasmosis?

Yes, only after full recovery from the disease. Full recovery occurs, on average, after 5 to 6 months.

What is the temperature for pyroplasmosis?

Increased, rises to 40 - 42.

What is the percentage of dog survival?

With timely treatment, the disease is quite easily treated, but if you do not help on time, then the survival rate is only about 5%.

Briefly about the main thing

  1. Pyroplasmosis is a dangerous disease caused by blood parasites - Babesia. Infection occurs with a bite of ixodid ticks.
  2. The incubation period of the disease is from three days to two weeks, depending on many factors.
  3. The veterinarian should be contacted immediately if any of the symptoms of the disease are detected, even if it is simply lethargy and drowsiness.
  4. Treatment at home is not possible, droppers may most likely be needed, therefore it is extremely important to contact a veterinary clinic.
  5. In addition to a special medication, whose action is aimed at destroying the causative agent of the disease, additional supportive therapy will be required, because the entire body of the pet suffers.
  6. There are vaccinations against pyroplasmosis. However, reviews about them are ambiguous. The vaccine practically does not protect against infection. It facilitates the course, but because of this you risk not noticing the symptoms of the disease and you can go to the veterinarian too late.
  7. A full recovery of a dog after an illness can take several months.
  8. Be sure to use tick protection products!

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4th year student of the Voronezh Agrarian University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Livestock Technology, specialty Veterinary. I work as an assistant veterinarian.
To become a really good specialist, it is not enough to have basic knowledge, constant development and practice is necessary - and I strive for this. I attend veterinary conferences, lecturers of which are leading specialists of clinics in Moscow and St. Petersburg.