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Babesiosis is a tick-borne infection and is also known as equine piroplasmosis. The parasites B. caballi and T. equi are the hosts for this disease. Found predominantly in countries other than the United States, such as Europe and South and Central America, the reality of the disease entering North America is evident due to horses in California testing positive for the illness in recent years. The importation of equines from other countries may allow for the transfer of the disease across the ocean.
Signs of the condition may be evident within one to four weeks of the tick bite. Additionally, transmission of the illness via the blood (transfusions or infected tools) has been noted. Horses with this illness are often euthanized or quarantined for lengthy periods, including for life.
Babesiosis is a condition that results from your horse’s contact with ticks carrying the infection. The infection is from the protozoa Babesia caballi or Theileria equi.
The symptoms your horse may experience if he has come into contact with Babesiosis can vary greatly.
Jaundice - Your horse’s skin and eyes may begin to turn a yellowish color
Breathing changes - Your horse’s breathing may become rapid
The two types of Babesiosis are dependent upon the protozoan that the tick carries. The two types are:
There are certain risk factors that may make your horse more susceptible to contracting these tick-borne infections.
Time of Year
Diagnosis is not always straightforward. Differentials that must be ruled out could be conditions like plant toxicosis, dourine, and equine infectious anemia. Because of the possibility of these other more common illnesses, the veterinarian may want to do standard blood tests that can be indicative of these conditions. More tests, specific to the diagnosis of Babesiosis may be utilized.
Clinical signs, such as jaundice and lack of coordination may lead the veterinarian to do tests specific to Babesiosis.
There are a few treatment options for your horse if he is diagnosed with Babesiosis. It is important to note that if treatment is not provided in time, your horse can lose his life. This can happen within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Imidocarb dipropionate is the present medication of choice for treating horses with Babesiosis. Additionally, diminazene aceturate has shown some success (documentation is mainly suggestive of dogs and cattle; however, therapy in equines has been noted with resolution as well) . In order to help with secondary symptoms, your veterinarian may suggest anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids and even possibly blood transfusions for horses that have severe anemia. Relapse is possible if your horse is not treated correctly or if he continues to be a carrier for an extended period.
Side effects may be severe with the use of Imidocarb; your veterinarian may choose to keep your horse for a period of hours to days to be certain that there is no danger. Diarrhea and colic may need to be treated if your horse experiences them as a result of the medication. Horses with Babesiosis typically face long term quarantine, though completion of a certified FDA program may allow for clearance after a specified time.
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