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Babesia infection in dogs

What is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a malaria-like disease caused by a microscopic parasite (Babesia Canis). The parasite is carried and transmitted by ticks.

What has changed?

Babesiosis has been diagnosed in UK dogs before but in all those cases the dogs contracted the infection abroad. For the first time there is an outbreak of Babesiosis in the UK. Four dogs in Harlow, Essex, with no history of foreign travel have contracted the disease. Unfortunately, one of these dogs has died.

How is it transmitted?

Babesia Canis is predominately transmitted by the Dermacentor reticularis tick (Ornate Cow tick). In warmer climates (Southern Europe) it is also transmitted by the Rhipicephalus sanguineus tick (Brown Dog Tick).
It is the D. Reticularis tick that was implicated in the recent outbreak in Essex. Importantly, D. Reticularis is not widespread in the UK, with only very limited confirmed populations in isolated areas in the UK.
The Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicehalus Sanguineus) is not currently established in the UK but there are reports of dogs returning from abroad carrying it and subsequently establishing in households.

What are the symptoms of Babesiosis?

The infection results in anaemia following destruction of the patient’s red blood cells. Signs of infection include pale gums, high fever, weakness, red urine and collapse in severe cases.

How is it diagnosed?

Vets can in most cases diagnose the infection by looking at a blood smear. There is also a PCR blood test available if the blood smear results are inconclusive.

How is the disease treated?

There is effective treatment for the infection. It normally consists of two injections given two weeks apart. More severe affected cases might need supportive care, which can include blood transfusions.

How can I protect my dog?

Regular control of ticks by using an effective product is the best way to protect your dog. It takes at least two days for the tick to transmit the parasite to a dog, so we advise you examine your dog carefully after walks, particularly in woods or fields. Any ticks found should be removed with a tick remover to ensure all parts are removed successfully.

Can the disease be transmitted to humans?

The is no risk to humans from Babesia Canis.

What is the prognosis?

Early diagnosis is the key. With appropriate treatment 85 to 90% of patients should recover from the infection.

Should I be worried?

It is very important to point out that the tick implicated in the outbreak is at the moment only found in very limited areas in the UK. You can find an up to date distribution map here.

What will we do?

We will monitor the situation closely and keep you up to date on any new developments in the outbreak. Milton Keynes Veterinary Group has recently taken part in the “Big Tick Project”, run by Bristol University. In total vets across the country have collected 6, 372 ticks for analysis for tick borne diseases, including Babesiosis and Lyme disease. The results of this study will be available later this year and we will update our clients on the results.

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Spring Surprises!

As the winter draws to a close and the days become warmer pets start to spend more time outside enjoying the Spring sunshine (hopefully!) and longer daylight hours.

However Spring brings some unexpected problems for our pets:-

  • Chocolate – keep all those Easter eggs well away from dogs as the theobromine in chocolate can be toxic at relatively small amounts especially dark chocolate or those with a high cocoa solids content

  • Chocolate

  • Lilies – many people decorate their house with lilies at Easter time. However the leaves, flowers and pollen can cause kidney failure in cats and is often fatal. Please avoid bringing these into your house if you have cats.

  • Lillies

  • Hot Cross buns – raisins and grapes can cause acute renal failure in dogs. It does not affect every dog but it is impossible to know which dogs are susceptible and in those dogs that are affected even a small amount can be fatal.

  • Buns

  • Gardening – bulbs can be poisonous in dogs and cats so if digging up a flowerbed make sure you dispose of any carefully! Also take extreme care if using ANY pesticides.
  • Slugs and snails – they love the wet, warm weather Spring brings and in this area they can carry Lungworm. This parasite infects dogs causing blood clotting problems as well as coughing and other symptoms and can be fatal. Dogs are infected by eating the slugs or snails. Regular treatment with an anti-lungworm insecticide such as Advocate can prevent it.

  • Lungworm

  • Grasses and pollens – as the garden springs into life skin allergies can be more common. Watch out for itchy skin, rashes and sore eyes. Ears can also be affected.
  • Lamb bones – we enjoy a lovely roasted leg of lamb at Easter, but dogs should not have cooked lamb bones as they splinter, and any fatty left-over meat could cause an upset tummy.

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Doggie Donor Day success

We had a fantastic turn out for our first doggie blood donor session on Valentine’s Day. We are so grateful to everyone involved, especially the doggie lifesavers! The Pet Blood Bank team were very impressed with how well behaved the donors all were.


Donor

This amazing bunch of beauties collected 15 units of blood between them which can help up to 60 sick dogs. And with such an amazing effort, we are planning another donor session in June.

Please email us at info@mkvetgroup.co.uk to register.


Donor

Pet Blood Bank UK (PBBuk) was set up as the first UK charity to collect, process, store and distribute pet blood products in the UK. A change in legislation in October 2005 made it possible for vets to store pet blood. Recognising this as an opportunity to develop a blood bank, Vets Now raised the funds to set up and support the PBBuk charity, which supplies dogs all over the UK with vital, lifesaving blood. PBBuk was launched in 2007 and has provided over 10,000 units of blood products to help save thousands of dogs lives.


Donor

PBBuk collects canine blood which is then processed into various blood products and stored on the premises. The blood products are then sold to veterinary practices across the UK. Any profits will be re-employed into educational programmes such as developing veterinary transfusion medicine within the UK.


Donor

We at Milton Keynes Veterinary Group are so proud to support the work of the Pet Blood Bank UK, but of course, we couldn’t have done it without our doggie donors! Thank you so much and see you again soon!


Donor

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Vaccine improvements encourage policy change

New emerging strains of one of the most common and potentially deadly dog diseases ‘Leptospirosis’ have prompted Milton Keynes Veterinary Group to launch a new vaccination policy in a bid to protect the local dog population from this and other fatal diseases.

Leptospirosis is a widespread disease which is carried by rodents such as the rat and other animals. It is a serious disease that infects dogs, and even people, potentially fatal to both. It is passed via an infected animal’s urine or from contaminated water, so almost any dog that goes outside is at risk. This risk is currently heightened due to the recent widespread wet weather and flooding, and extra precautions are being advised. Early diagnosis can be complicated due to symptoms being vague, but as the disease progresses, symptoms include stiffness, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea and lethargy. Following infection some dogs become long-term carriers that whilst appearing healthy, can put others at risk of disease. However, the good news is that like Parvovirus the disease can be prevented by vaccination. In recent years, more strains of Leptospirosis have appeared so we are now using new vaccines that are available, providing higher levels of protection against four strains of leptospirosis, rather than just two strains covered by traditional vaccines. These vaccines also helps to protect the local dog population and environment by preventing the spread of this disease via dogs’ urine.

As well as dog owners benefiting from this up-to-date vaccine, there is also good news for puppy owners as this vaccine can be used in puppies as young as six weeks of age, if needed. This means puppies can be protected from deadly viral disease as early as nine weeks of age.


leptospirosis

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects blood, liver or kidneys. There are several different types of leptospira that can be responsible for the disease. New strains have been identified in recent years, and they can affect dogs and also humans. It is carried by rodents, such as rats, and other animals, including cattle, sheep and dogs.

How common is leptospirosis?

The disease does occur in the UK, affecting stray or unvaccinated dogs. In urban areas, it is mainly spread by the urine of infected dogs, whereas in rural areas, another type of leptospira is more common and is spread by the urine of rats. Due to routine vaccination, the disease in Britain is now less than it was but it does still occur. New strains have been identified in recent years and vaccinations have been developed to include 4 strains instead of the two years covered by traditional vaccines.

How is it transmitted?

It is passed via an infected animal’s urine or from contaminated water. Ingestion is the most important means of transmission, but some forms can penetrate damaged or very thin skin. The incubation period is usually 4-12 days.
Extra precautions are advised following the recent wet weather and flooding that we have been experiencing.


leptospirosis

What are the signs of Leptospirosis?

Some infections are undetected and show no symptoms, but the dog can still act as a carrier. Acute cases can be life-threatening. There are three main forms of the disease: haemorrhagic (bleeding), icteric or jaundiced form (involving the liver), and also the renal type. In the acute disease there is a high fever with lethargy and loss of appetite. Bloody diarrhoea and vomiting are common. This form can rapidly be fatal. If the liver is mainly affected, although the early signs are similar to the haemorrhagic form, jaundice a yellow colour can occur and affect the mouth or the whites of the eyes. Sometimes even the skin is yellow. In the renal form, kidney failure can occur. The dog is very lethargic, off food and vomits. Often the breath is offensive and there are ulcers on the tongue and inside the lips. If the dog recovers, chronic kidney disease often follows.

What is the treatment?

Since leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria, appropriate antibiotic treatment is effective if the condition is diagnosed early enough. Dogs are often so ill when presented that hospitalisation and intensive nursing care, including intravenous fluids, are usually necessary.

How can it be prevented?

Leptospirosis has been included in vaccination regimes for many years as part of the routine vaccination programme. Protection against the new strains of leptospirosis have been improved with the introduction of the L4 part of the vaccine. Previously, Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae and Leptospira canocola were the two strains covered. The L4 vaccine has both of these in addition to protection against L.bratislava and L.grippotyphosa. The vaccines give a minimum of 12 months protection.

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Valentine Donor Day for the Pet Blood Bank

As most of you know, people can be blood donors – but did you know that dogs can be blood donors too?
The Pet Blood Bank is a charity that provides a canine blood bank service for all veterinary practices across the UK. Run as a voluntary scheme just like the human blood service, dogs from all over the country give blood at many of their sessions.
We are excited and pleased to announce our Pet Blood Bank donor session on Sunday 14th February at 10am, is fully booked. We want to thank everyone for registering for what we hope is the first of many sessions we will be hosting.

If you are interested in registering for future sessions, your dog needs to be:

  • Fit and healthy
  • Between one and 8 years old
  • Weigh more than 25kg
  • Have a good temperament
  • Have never travelled abroad
  • Vaccinated
  • Not on any medication

Jess McCarthy, veterinary nurse and session co-ordinator said: “My own dog, Westwood, almost needed a blood transfusion in an emergency situation as a young dog, I was so grateful that the vets were able to save his life. And as thanks I am now committed to raising awareness and finding donors for the Pet Blood Bank. In fact once Westwood recovered fully, he became a donor himself!”

All dogs will be weighed and undergo a physical examination by a Pet Blood Bank UK veterinary surgeon each time they donate. Dogs will also be microchipped if they are not already. A small blood sample is obtained to check your pet is healthy, determine their blood type, and to ensure they are not showing any signs of dehydration or anaemia before their donation.

If all is well then 450mls blood is collected. Dogs are gently restrained on their side, and blood is taken from the jugular vein in the neck. The actual donation only takes 5-10 minutes, although you should allow around 40 minutes in total for your appointment. A light dressing will be applied to your dog’s neck after donation and their pulse is checked.

Dogs are then given lots of praise and cuddles, followed by a well-deserved drink and bowl of food, and a doggie bag of treats to take home. You will be asked to sit with your dog for a short period of time prior to them having a final check before they are sent home to take it easy for the rest of the day.

For more information, or if you are interested in registering your pet to become a doggie blood donor, please contact the surgery on 01908 397777 and ask to speak to Jess, or register directly with Pet Blood Bank at www.petbloodbankuk.org


Donor

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