Vets are urging dog owners to remain vigilant for ticks hot on the heels of predictions for a warm bank holiday weekend across the UK.
For many dog owners who will enjoy extra days of work during the forthcoming bank holidays, the warmer weather will mean more options to spend time outdoors with dogs and so vets are warning that this could mean more dogs are at risk of ticks, who thrive in warmer conditions.
Recent climate data shows spring is getting warmer, with the Met Office commenting: “It is clear that over the last ten years spring in the UK has been warmer than average, which has the potential to shift the habits of certain species. The 30-year average of UK mean spring temperatures has risen by one degree to 8.1C, compared to just 7.1C recorded between 1961 and 1990.”
As we experience warmer and more humid weather, new types of tick have made their way to the UK from the Mediterranean basin.
The Dermacentor reticulatus tick which is now found in the UK is capable of transmitting the potentially fatal disease, babesiosis, to dogs. Although this disease is extremely rare in the UK, the favourable spring climate will allow all ticks to start feeding earlier and for longer throughout the year, causing irritation and discomfort to our pets if allowed to bite. The potential increase in tick activity may also lead to a greater risk from more established diseases, such as Lyme disease, which can also affect humans.
Jenny Helm, a veterinary clinician from the University of Glasgow comments: “Easter time is perfect parasite season. Tick bites are painful, irritating and can cause anxiety as well as distress to our pets. It’s important for pet owners to be aware tick bites can lead to other more harmful problems such as anaemia especially in young dogs, it’s important to speak to your vet about tick repellents.”
Ticks do not jump or fly, but wait until an animal or person brushes past to climb on and then they fix themselves into the skin of their host with their drill-like mouthparts. They can be found living in long grassy areas, where dogs are likely to venture on walks or in parks. There are a number of preventatives available, however not all will repel ticks before they have the chance to bite.
According to a recent survey by Bayer Animal Health 42% of UK pet owners consider tick-borne diseases a serious risk to dogs, with 60% reporting their pets have had a parasite or parasite-related disease problem in the past. Parasitic diseases have risen to become a prominent threat to UK dogs, these include the potentially fatal lungworm parasite, spread by slugs and snails, which has been confirmed as endemic throughout much of the UK.
Pet owners concerned about the risk to their pet are advised to speak to their vet who will advise on the appropriate tick protection. For more information about tick bites, visit the It’s a jungle out there Facebook page – www.facebook.com/jungleforpets