Dog owners warned about deadly tick-borne disease
In the past few weeks, UK dog owners have been advised that their pets could be at risk of contracting an extremely serious tick-borne disease which has been found in Britain for the first time.
As of this time, one dog has already sadly passed away and four others are seriously ill after contracting Babesiosis, a disease which causes an animal’s immune system to attack its own blood cells.
Babesiosis, which is carried and passed on through ticks, is believed to have come into the UK on an animal using the ‘pet passports’ scheme. Pet owners have been warned against the additional danger of this disease as British vets aren’t experienced in treating it.
It’s thought that the Babesiosis outbreak started in Essex, and due to animal activity in the area, there are worries that the disease would spread more widely.
A local vet, who had directly treated some of these affected dogs, explained to the BBC that the disease – which can only be treated with a blood transfusion – will prove very hard to detect.
The vet also expressed concern than the spread of the parasite could be accelerated by wild animals, such as foxes, which catch the illness.
The Harlow Council has sent a message to local dog owners, explaining that the ticks are ‘extremely rare’ in the UK, but cautioned them to protect their pets with anti-tick treatments, which can be purchased in local supermarkets or vet practices, and check for the bugs regularly.
The council has also signposted the area thought to contain the ticks, and has contacted the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs seeking advice on carrying out further tests on the area.
To make sure your pet is tick free, conduct a thorough body check of your dog. While these ticks are visible to the naked eye, they like living in dark, hidden areas of the animal, such as ears, groin and between the toes.
Signs that your dog is suffering with ticks include excessive scratching or licking in one particular area.
Pet owners must be careful when removing ticks, and we suggest the safest way to do this would be to use tweezers to grip the visible part of the tick and pull it straight out of the animal’s skin, as recommended by the CDC. Do not twist the tick, burn the tick or apply anything else to the skin as this could cause further damage to your pet.
With the risk of so many tick-borne diseases, you may find it wise to place the removed tick into a dated ziplock bag in the freezer. This way, if your pet shows any signs of illness, you can give the tick to the vet and they will be able to analyse it.+
We know that the average dog walker is already well aware that ticks and other parasites can spread infections like Lyme’s disease, but Babesiosis is an especially aggressive and dangerous illness.
As we have now entered Spring, ticks are becoming active and this outbreak means that owners need to be more vigilant than ever before.
If you need any assistance with a tick infestation, or have any questions about Babesiosis, please consult your local vet.