How British pets are being threatened by European ticks
Any dog or cat owner will know that parasites such as ticks can be a pressing danger to their animals. These little insects can be concealed in the thick, warm fur of pets and feed off their blood – potentially passing on all manner of infections, diseases or bacteria.
While most pet owners are able to treat their pets for everyday ticks, worms and fleas there is a new threat from Europe that could spell danger. A new species of tick arriving in Britain from Europe could cause anaemia and even death in our dogs if we’re not careful.
Introducing the brown dog tick
While there are a couple of different species of European tick being found in the UK, the most worrying newcomer is the brown dog tick, which is thought to have made its way to Britain after pet travel regulations were relaxed three years ago in accordance with the EU freedom of movement rules.
This particularly dangerous pest can carry something known as babesia canis which causes anaemia in dogs by affecting the red blood cells. In extreme cases, death can occur and unlike the UK’s native ticks, which are mostly found outside, these little fellas can live inside our homes.
Luckily, no reported dog deaths have been caused by this tick in the UK, but Professor Richard Wall, a leading expert in this area from the University of Bristol, believes this might not last for long.
He is urging dog owners to treat their pets with the current treatments available to protect them for as long as 12 weeks.
A growing problem for British dog owners
As well as the specific threat posed to dogs by the brown dog tick, research has also found that canines could face even more health risks as the overall number of parasites recorded in the UK is on the up.
The Big Tick Project, a national campaign supported by TV presenter Chris Packham, aims to highlight the problem of parasites for dog owners. Having conducted a survey of vets, it found the number of ticks in the UK has increased by as much as 73% in the last decade.
The survey also found the location of these parasites had changed. Rather than being concentrated in specific areas, the distribution of these dangerous nuisances has grown by 17% across the country to put pet owners and their faithful companions in even more danger.
A statistic which is perhaps the most surprising is the fact almost half of dog owners (47%) aren’t even aware of the dangers ticks can pose to their animals, and they fail to recognise diseases can be transmitted from ticks to both dogs and humans.
This is despite the fact that a massive 3,000 Brits are affected by Lyme disease – a bacterical infection which can result in a distinctive circular rash which is commonly transmitted by parasites such as ticks – every year.
Just like babesia canis, which can be passed on by the brown dog tick and cause anaemia or even death in dogs, Lyme disease can cause lameness, lethargy, fever, kidney disease and even heart failure in humans if left untreated for long periods.
What should you do?
To ensure that you and your pet are safely protected against this bacterial infection, it is vital you take the necessary precautions. This means regularly grooming your animal and using appropriate treatments to remove ticks.
If you notice any changes in your dog or cat’s general behaviour or health you should seek the advice of your vet immediately and ensure any relevant tests are completed to protect them from long-term, or even fatal, damage.
Also, remember pet insurance for dogs and cats is available to help you protect your pet in the event that they do become ill and need treatment.