Mobile Veterinary Practice   11045 Trinidad   Amarillo, TX   806.622.0803   mobileveterinarypractice@gmail.com
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11045 Trinidad Street
Amarillo, TX  79118
Phone: (806) 622-0803


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Saturday by appointment
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Piroplasmosis 

4.16.2010 

Dr. Chris Morrow, DVM 



Anyone that has requested health papers to travel out of state has been introduced to the disease Piroplasmosis.  Piroplasmosis, a protozoan disease, was considered eradicated but has recently become a recognized problem once again.  The protozoa, Theleria equi and T. caballi, are tick borne and will cause fever, anemia, jaundice and hemoglobinuria (blood in the urine).  The blood in the urine gives us the name “red water” also known as “Texas fever”.  Once infected, the horse becomes a chronic carrier and shedder of the disease.  There is no vaccine or curative treatment for this disease so horses that are diagnosed must be euthanized or permanently quarantined. 



The transmission of Piroplasmosis via the tick makes it spread much more slowly than mosquito borne diseases like Equine Infectious Anemia.  This slow spread will allow for us to control the disease more effectively.  Ticks are part of our environment in the panhandle wet or dry, hot or cold as they tend to be very hearty.  Ultimately, control of the tick population will technically lead to control of this disease.  



The spinous ear tick can be a carrier and is encountered frequently at veterinary exams.  Removal of the tick and treatment of the horse with pyrethrin ointments are helpful.  The life cycle is as follows: 



1)     The female tick ingests the parasite in a blood meal and passes it on to her larvae. 

2)     She drops off of the horse and lays eggs that will develop into larvae which then attach to a new host.  

3)     Parasites in the tick saliva enter the new host’s blood stream infecting red blood cells.   

4)     The red blood cells then break, which releases the parasites into the blood stream to continue the infection. 



This disease can also be passed through poor husbandry that would expose horses to infected blood (e.g. re-using needles).  This particular method of transmittance is very common in some areas outside of veterinary care and supervision.  With correct care, good husbandry, and cooperation between areas of the equine industry, this disease can and will be easily controlled.  Remember to rely on the relationship you have with your veterinarian to know the best methods of prevention for your area and the requirements to transport your horse.