Original Research

Survey of canine babesiosis in South Africa

M.G. Collett
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 71, No 3 | a710 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v71i3.710 | © 2000 M.G. Collett | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 July 2000 | Published: 10 July 2000

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A questionnaire, designed to obtain qualitative information on a number of variables concerning canine babesiosis (biliary fever) in South Africa, was sent to 510 veterinary practices in late 1993. Of the 157 practices that responded, all were presented with cases of babesiosis and most were situated in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Apart from the Western Cape, a winter-rainfall region, the prevalence of babesiosis cases in dogs was highest in summer. Most of the respondent practices treated between 1000 and 5000 sick dogs that included 100 to 500 babesiosis cases each year. Respondents identified cerebral babesiosis, enterorrhagia, 'red' or haemoconcentrated babesiosis, acute renal failure and pulmonary babesiosis or 'shock lung', amongst others, as the most prevalent forms of complicated ('atypical') babesiosis. Diminazene, imidocarb and trypan blue were the most popular antibabesials. Trypan blue was most often used in shocked patients, whereas diminazene and imidocarb were preferred when there was a high parasitaemia in the absence of shock. At least 19 antibabesial treatment regimens were used in practices. These comprised the use of single doses of antibabesial drugs; split doses with repeat injections, and combined drug variations, some of which are undesirable due to possible sterilisation of Babesia infection or potential toxicity. Side-effects were most commonly associated with imidocarb use. Ninety-six percent of respondents used supportive treatment (e.g. corticosteroids, vitamins and 'liver support') in all cases of babesiosis. The use of blood transfusion as supportive treatment varied according to practice and severity of the case. Most practices never cross-matched blood to be transfused, and transfusion reactions were rare. Diminazene was most frequently incriminated in cases where drug 'resistance' or relapses occurred. Cerebral and 'red' cases resulted in high mortality. Treatment of babesiosis costs the dog-owning public in South Africa more than R20 million each year. Information on the distribution and possible complicating role of Ehrlichia canis was obtained. Development of a vaccine was the first research priority identified.


Antibabesial Therapy; Babesia Canis; Babesiosis; Biliary Fever; Complications; Costs; Dog; Ehrlichia Canis; Importance; Prevalence; Priorities; Research; Supportive Treatment; Survey


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