Dog Magazine

This Disease Can Kill Dogs & Vets Have Seen a 560% Increase in the UK

Vet charity PDSA today reported a near-six-fold rise* in cases relating to Lyme Disease among UK pets in the last six years.

The worrying statistics mirror the worsening situation in humans, with surging numbers of people now diagnosed with the debilitating disease.

Lyme Disease (Borreliosis) is caused by ticks – blood sucking parasites found in woodlands and long grass. It can lead to symptoms in pets such as fever, pain and swelling in the joints, crippling arthritis, nerve damage and even meningitis – which are similar to human symptoms.

PDSA saw around 100 cases of suspected or confirmed Lyme Disease in 2015 – an increase of 560% since 2009 (15 cases).

PDSA vet Vicki Larkham-Jones, warned that the figures were likely to be “just the tip of the iceberg” as many cases go unreported.

She said: “These figures are incredibly worrying because Lyme Disease can be a very serious, debilitating condition that can cause long-term problems if left untreated.

“Caught early, the disease can usually be effectively treated with long-term antibiotics. However, owners may not even be aware that their animal has been bitten by a tick, so they need to be vigilant.”

The rise in Lyme Disease in the UK, thought to be driven by climate change and warmer winters, has been recognised by public health officials for some time, according to NHS figures.

Reported human cases in England and Wales rose from 268 in 2001 to 959 in 2011*** (260% increase), but the true figure is thought be much higher.

Vicki Larkham-Jones added: “Although the tick population appears to be on the increase, the majority of these parasites do not cause Lyme Disease.

“We treated 2,545 pets for tick related issues****, including bites or removal in 2015 and only around 100 of these cases were suspected or confirmed cases of Lyme Disease.

“Now is the time for vigilance, as the UK’s tick population peaks between late spring and autumn.”

Thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, PDSA is educating pet owners on measures they can take to minimise the risk of themselves or their animal being bitten. The charity has produced a downloadable leaflet at www.pdsa.org.uk and is also delivering 300,000 parasite prevention treatments this year.

Tick-bite prevention tips from PDSA:

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Treatment

Case study

Lakeland Terrier cross Brad, from Somercotes, Derbyshire, became extremely ill after contracting suspected Lyme Disease from ticks on a hedgehog in his owners’ garden.

Neil and Teresa Amos said their seven-year-old dog had found the hedgehog and when he came indoors he had several ticks attached to his muzzle and leg.

Although Neil believed all of the ticks had been successfully removed the damage was already done as it seems Brad contracted Lyme Disease from one of the parasites.

He said: “A few weeks later I noticed Brad wasn’t himself at all. He would stand there almost looking straight through us and he couldn’t jump on and off the sofa.

“We’ve owned dogs all our lives and I’d heard about Lyme Disease so it automatically registered with me about the ticks and we took him straight to PDSA.”

Aimee Labbate, senior vet at PDSA’s Derby Pet Hospital, agreed that Brad was displaying classic symptoms of Lyme Disease.

She said: “Brad appeared to be very uncomfortable and was suffering joint pain. He seemed to have a hunched appearance and was having head tremors.

“We suspected he had Lyme Disease and prescribed a long course of antibiotics.”

After six weeks of medication Brad is making good progress.

Theresa added: “I would say he’s 100% back to his old self which is great. But he is one of the lucky ones. People don’t often realise how serious a tick bite can be but hopefully by highlighting Brad’s story we can help raise awareness among more pet owners.”

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