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Babesiosis in Central Massachusetts: A Danger to Dogs & Humans

Much of the discussion about tick-borne diseases in Central Massachusetts is centered around Lyme Disease. While Lyme is certainly a worthy subject, we would be remiss to not share with you important information about other dangerous tick-borne diseases which could be transmitted in Chelmsford, Cambridge and the surrounding area. Babesiosis is the disease in question. A dangerous disease for humans and their furry best friends, dogs.


Currently, there is a large outbreak of Babesiosis in dogs in the United Kingdom, which serves as a reminder that it could happen here too. The Babesia canis vogeli, Babesia gibsoni and the Babesisa conradaeare the three parasites that can cause Babesiosis illness in our canine friends. These parasites are transmitted to your dog through the saliva of an infected American dog tick, sometimes known as the “wood tick”. Removing an infected tick safely and promptly can prevent the transmission of parasites and other pathogens.

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), symptoms of Babesiosis in dogs can include hemolytic anemia, anorexia, depression, fever, a pale complexion, an enlarged spleen or bounding pulse. Infected dogs can usually be treated successfully with an antiprotozoal medication, although late or undiagnosed cases could lead to death. If you suspect your dog has Babesiosis illness, see your veterinarian right away. The CAPC recommends treating your pets with tick control medication year round to lower your dog’s risks. As with all dog medication, follow your veterinarian’s advice closely.


Babesiosis illness in humans is usually caused by the parasite Babesia microti. Human Babesiosis is spread by deer ticks (black-legged ticks) rather than the American dog tick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Babesiosis in humans can range “from asymptomatic to life-threatening.” Massachusetts happens to be among the 7 states that account for 95% of the cases of Babesiosis reported in 2013.

While many people infected with Babesia microti never experience any symptoms, those who do may feel flu-like. Symptoms can include a headache, body aches, fever, chills, sweats, loss of appetite, nausea or fatigue. Some cases can cause hemolytic anemia which can lead to jaundice. Babesiosis can be severe and even life-threatening, especially in people who do not have a spleen, have a weakened immune system, the elderly or those with another serious health condition such as liver or kidney disease.

Babesiosis can be effectively treated with a 7-10 day combination therapy of antibiotic and anti-parasitic drugs. Be sure to see your doctor immediately if you suspect you may have transmitted Babesiosis.

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Central Mass. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area. Be sure to follow the 6 C’s of tick control to make certain your yard is not inadvertently attracting ticks.