Last month you may have heard reports on the radio and local press about a nasty dog disease spread by blood sucking ticks, occurring in Kent.
Many of my clients have asked me to tell them whether their own pets are at risk or not, and how to protect them.
This new (to the UK) disease is called Babesiosis, transmitted by the tick parasites of various species, and it causes a fatal anaemia in dogs. We have seen it before in dogs in the UK, but previously it has only occurred in dogs that have been abroad and bitten by foreign ticks.
What is new about this outbreak is that none of the four affected dogs in Kent had ever left the UK. So, unfortunately this means that the disease has now entered the British tick population and is likely to spread further into the south of England over time.
This may be a consequence of the recent EU relaxation of UK regulations, which previously insisted that all travelling dogs should be treated for ticks before returning to the UK. It is now much easier for us to take pets abroad with a passport, and bring them back again, but this will unfortunately change the diseases that we see here.
Luckily, at present, this disease is not a huge epidemic despite what you may have read in the papers. But I am here to answer some of the commonly asked questions.
Is my dog at risk?
Here at The Mewes Vets, my staff are trained to do a personalised parasite programme, assessing your dog’s individual lifestyle and needs.
The good news is that local Sussex ticks do not carry any diseases that are dangerous to pets or humans, but if this changes we will let you know immediately. My team can also safely removes ticks if your dog should get bitten.
Will my dog be at risk in the future?
Perhaps – as there are two ways that Babesiosis could get to Sussex. If an infected dog carried a tick here, the tick would then be dropped off in the local environment. As ticks only feed on a mammal about once a year, and the next animal it bites may not be a dog, the process will be a long one.
The other way would be by the breeding of the infected ticks over time, but again, they breed very slowly, and do not tend to travel long distances. Ticks may only cover a few inches in 24 hours, and they cannot jump or fly. So this would take a very long time to reach Sussex too.
If my dog gets infected, what can I do?
Should your dog get infected (which would be rare!), there are treatments available in the form of various medicines. Thankfully, people cannot be infected by Babesia, so that is nothing to worry about.
Should I get my dog tick prevention?
For dogs living in Sussex, the risk of catching Babesiosis is significantly lower than other new parasites in the south of England, like lungworm, which is a serious and present killer that does require monthly preventative treatment.
If you would like to speak to our team about parasite control, or if you have any concerns about Babesiosis, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01444 456886.