What are the risks of tick-borne illnesses Lyme disease and babesiosis to your dog?
Ticks picked up by your dog on a walk through long grass or woodland are more than an unsightly and inconvenient irritant needing quick and effective removal. They can carry disease that can be potentially fatal for our pets and also cause harm to ourselves.
What diseases can ticks carry?
Awareness is rising of the debilitating condition Lyme disease which is transmitted by a bite from an infected tick.
In the UK, Public Health England estimates the number of new Lyme disease cases each year at around 3,000 while Lyme disease charities say the figure could even be as high as 15,000 annually. However, the majority of people are unaware that this damaging condition also affects our pet dogs.
Canine babesiosis is now a threat in UK
Canine babesiosis, a life-threatening tick-borne disease can also be transmitted by a bite from an infected tick.
Canine babesiosis has historically been found in mainland Europe and there have been cases of the disease in dogs from the UK who have contracted the disease while travelling abroad. However, Canine babesiosis has now been positively confirmed in dogs that had not travelled abroad for the first time. The four recent cases of Babesia canis occurred in dogs living in Essex who had never travelled abroad but are likely to have contracted the disease from infected Dermacentor ticks (below) picked up in the local area.
The potentially fatal disease can manifest with high temperature, increased respiratory rate, muscle tremors, weakness, severe anaemia, jaundice, and weight loss.
Vets from around 1400 practices across the UK took part in the Big Tick Project, the largest nationwide collection of ticks from dogs last year in a bid to help scientists track what is feared to be a growing threat to people and their dogs from tick-borne zoonotic diseases such as Lyme disease. The results of the study will be released in the summer of 2016.
The Big Tick Project was launched by Chris Packham (pictured above with dogs Itchy and Scratchy, image courtesy Paul Carter) in April 2015. Watch Chris and the team launching the project here.
How can you prevent tick-borne disease?
After walks you should regularly check your dog for ticks including typical hotspots such as over the shoulder, behind the ears, between the pads and toes. Unfortunately ticks can be hard to spot as before they are engorged, they can be just 1mm and will stay hidden in a long or thick-coated dog. If you find a tick it should be removed correctly.
When it comes to tick-borne diseases, prevention really is better than cure. Talk to you vet about effective tick control and find out what the product you choose actually does – ie whether it can repel the ticks and do this effectively whatever your dog’s lifestyle, or kill them quickly for the full duration of treatment.
Tick treatments include spot-ons (which typically are reapplied monthly), sprays, collars and oral chewable tablets.
Information brought to you by MSD Animal Health, manufacturer of Bravecto®