WARN LOCAL PET OWNERS OF INCREASED RISK FROM TICK-BORNE DISEASES
AS FOREIGN DISEASE SUSPECTED IN UK
February 29th, 2016 -
recent news that four separate suspected cases of dogs infected
with the tick-borne disease Babesiosis have been identified in Essex,
experts are warning of the increased risk from foreign ticks being
brought over to the UK.
According to a new study up to half (49 per cent) of pet owners
admit their pet could have been bitten by a tick when in another
country and more than two thirds (70 per cent) of owners are worried
about their pet picking up a parasite or disease when abroad.
Since the UK Government updated the Pet Travel Scheme
in 2014, growing numbers of dog owners are choosing to take their
pets on holiday with them to European destinations, increasing the
risk of a number of tick-borne diseases being brought back to the
UK. Worringly, 46 per cent of owners admit their pet has previously
returned from a trip overseas with a parasite or disease. Lyme disease
is already an established risk in the UK with five per cent of respondents
saying either their pet or themselves have contracted this debilitating
disease and the concern is that other tick-borne diseases could
soon also become established here.
With the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme,
pet owners now have greater freedom of movement when it comes to
taking their pets abroad to EU countries. The number of Pet Passports
issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency increased from 72,325
in 2014 to 127,657 in 20153. Before it typically took over six months
to get the passports signed off ready for travel but following the
new legislation, pet owners now need only wait three weeks after
the rabies vaccine before travelling.
Bite is Right’ research among 4,000 dog and
cat owners in the UK, commissioned by Bayer, supports a national
tick awareness campaign, which aims to educate pet owners about
the importance of helping to stop parasites biting their pet(s).
It is supported by previous pet owner reasearch5 which confirms
that 96 per cent of pet owners would be happier using a tick product
knowing that ticks are repelled before biting and feeding. Pet owners
are encouraged to speak to their vet about using a preventative
tick product to meet their needs.
Ticks can carry a number of diseases, many of which are harmful
to both pets and humans, and can be transmitted in less than a day
after being bitten by an infected tick6. Ehrlichiosis, is seen in
all Mediterranean countries and can infect the white blood cells
in dogs, causing them to develop problems with their immune and
blood clotting systems. Babesiosis is primarily spread by ticks
across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America however
with the four separate suspected cases recently reported in native
British dogs which hadn’t travelled abroad this groundbreaking
finding indicates this is now also a threat to consider in the UK.
Babesiosis is caused by a parasite of the red blood cells which
can result in anaemia, weakness and can even be fatal to dogs.
Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at Bristol University,
adds: "An increase in the number of pets travelling outside
the UK and relaxation in the regulations governing the treatment
of travelling companion animals has also increased the risks of
the introduction of foreign tick species, particularly the brown
dog tick and the introduction of diseases such as Babesia canis.
These changes necessitate a greater awareness among the veterinary
profession and pet owners of the risks of tick infestation and tick-borne
Jenny Helm, veterinary surgeon at Glasgow University,
says: “With more and more UK pet owners taking their pets
abroad on holiday, it is very important for them to be aware of
the serious, debilitating and potentially life threatening tick
borne diseases their pets will be exposed to. Pet owners should
speak to their vets well in advance of any planned trips to ensure
they can implement adequate protection for their pets before and
during their period of travel.”
It is estimated there are between 2,000 and 3,000
new confirmed human cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each
year7 and 15 per cent of these are acquired while people are abroad.
Lyme is the most common tick-borne disease in temperate zones of
the northern hemisphere, with around 85,000 cases reported annually
in Europe alone8.
Stella Huyshe-Shires, from charity Lyme Disease
Action, also commented: “It is vital that pet owners are aware
of the risk of importing foreign ticks and associated diseases.
The Brown Dog Tick has been brought into the UK on imported pet
dogs and can be very difficult to eradicate from homes where it
establishes a breeding population. There are more diseases present
in European ticks and pets are a potential way for new tick-borne
diseases and new disease strains to become established in the UK.
These can affect humans and pets and have very serious consequences.
We recommend that any ticks found on your dog should be sent to
the PHE Tick recording scheme for identification.”
No Bite is Right Campaign Manager at Bayer Animal
Health says: “Owner education is key when it comes to taking
their pets abroad and being aware of the risks from tick-borne diseases
in foreign countries, as well as in the UK. Awareness that preventative
products against ticks are available, is crucial to ensure they
are giving their pets the best chance of protection against tick
‘No Bite Is Right’ is part of Bayer’s
wider ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’ parasite protection
initiative. A series of campaign roadshows for pet owners will be
taking place this year at the Ayr, Devon and New Forest County Shows.
Find out how to get tickets to the shows and if your pet and family
could be at risk from ticks by following the conversation on www.facebook.com/jungleforpets.
Issued by: Pegasus
On behalf of: Bayer Animal Health
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• Professor Richard Wall is a Professor of Zoology at the
University of Bristol and specialises in the area of Veterinary
Parasitology and Ecology
• Jenny Helm graduated from the faculty of Veterinary Medicine,
University of Glasgow in 2005 and obtained her RCVS certificate
in small animal medicine in 2008
1 Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association 2014 report. http://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-population-2014
2 OnePoll survey of 4,000 UK dog and cat owners, conducted January
3 Data from Freedom of Information request. Animal and Plant Health
4 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs information
5 Opinion Matters, November 2014, 4955 Dog and/or Cat Owners
6 Public Health England factsheet, National Archives: webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140714084352/http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317138937172
7 Public Health England Signs & Symptoms factsheet: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/463701/LymeDisease_SignsAndSymptoms.pdf
8 World Health Organisation factsheet: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/96819/E89522.pdf