Ticks

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There are several different diseases that can carried and transmitted by ticks. There are 2 main types of tick found in the UK, Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus; different tick types will carry different diseases, which is why tick treatment when returning from Europe is so important. Some of these diseases are uncommon in the UK but occur more often in Europe which then poses at greater risk with the PETS passport.

Diseases that we encounter in the UK include Lymes disease, Q fever, which both affect humans and in Europe there is Babesiosis and Ehrlichia infections.

LYMES DISEASE

This is becoming more widespread in dogs and humans and is the disease most likely to be picked up from ticks in the UK. It can vary from showing few signs to be very debilitating to dogs or humans.

Who is at risk?

Dogs and humans are at risk of this disease, if they are bitten by ticks and the ticks not removed quickly.

How is it spread?

The disease is transmitted by ticks which, when they bite a dog or human, pass on an organism called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria causes symptoms of the disease once it gets established in the new host.

Not surprisingly, the disease is commoner in places where there are many ticks, eg woods where there are deer and rodents who serve as hosts to the ticks. It is rare in urban pets.

Signs and symptoms

In dogs the main symptoms are stiffness/lameness, painful joints, poor appetite, high temperature and enlarged lymph glands. In people, an early sign of the condition is a skin rash.

Prevention and control

Check for ticks regularly and remove them as quickly as possible and use tick prevention products to kill or repell the ticks.

CANINE BABESIOSIS

Particularly prevalent in France, babesiosis is a serious tick-borne protozoal disease caused by a parasite,Babesia spp., which destroys white blood cells. In Europe, babesiosis is mainly caused by Babesia canis canis and it is rare in the UK. However, the disease is being diagnosed more frequently in travelling animals, since the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) in February 2000.

Who is at risk?

The disease is seen worldwide in dogs of all ages, although there seems to be a higher incidence in younger dogs. There is a seasonal variation with a higher frequency recorded in the warmer months (September-April). British dogs are particularly vulnerable as they have never encountered the disease and therefore have no resistance.

How is it spread?

It is transmitted through tick-bites to dogs, in which they infect and proliferate in red blood cells. Ticks will feed for up to three days before they transmit infection. Susceptible dogs can die within a couple of days of the clinical signs appearing.

Signs and symptoms

Signs include fever, anaemia, lethargy, presence of ticks, high temperature, blood in the urine and jaundice.

Prevention and control

The primary goal in the treatment of babesiosis is to reverse the anaemia and eliminate or suppress the parasite. In complicated cases, additional intensive therapy is required, aimed at the particular organ affected. Blood transfusions in severely anaemic animals are not uncommon.

If holidaying abroad with your pet, it is vital to protect your dog from ticks and check its coat every day. If you can remove ticks, within a day of attachment, the disease can be prevented. There are now a couple of different products that will reduce the attatchment of ticks but nothing is 100%; there is a spot on preparation or collars available.

EHRLICHIOSIS

Ehrlichiosis is another tick-borne disease. Infection with this parasite can cause anaemia, immunosuppression and compromise the blood's clotting ability. This disease is considered as deadly as babesiosis.

Who is at risk?

The disease is particularly widespread in large parts of North and South America, Europe (Mediterranean basin and the Rhone Valley), Asia and Africa. British dogs are particularly vulnerable as they have never encountered the disease and therefore have no resistance.

How is it spread?

It is transmitted through tick-bites to dogs, in which they infect and proliferate in monocytes, which leads to immune complex related diseases. Susceptible dogs can die within a couple of days of the clinical signs appearing.

Signs and symptoms

The disease recognises an acute, subclinical and chronic phase.

The acute phase starts with fever, anorexia, vomiting, swollen glands and bleeding problems (nose bleeds). This phase can take up to four weeks. Most dogs will survive this phase.

Depending on breed and immune status, a subclinical and chronic phase will follow. In the severe chronic phase symptoms like nose bleed, neurologic signs, inflamed kidneys and arthritis are seen. Most dogs in this phase will not survive. German Shepherds are very sensitive to the infection.

Prevention and control

If holidaying abroad with your pet, it is vital to protect your dog from ticks and check its coat every day. If you can remove ticks, within a day of attachment, the disease can be prevented. There are now a couple of different products that will reduce the attachment of ticks but nothing is 100%; there is a spot on preparation or collars available.

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