Nearly 1 in 3 Dogs Have Ticks, UK Survey Finds

Researchers find big increase in tick numbers across Britain, prompting fears over infections like Lyme disease.

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The survey found that 31% of dogs checked at random when taken to the vet was carrying a tick. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

The ugly truth is that ticks were found on almost 1 in 3 dogs during random checks of pets in the biggest survey of its kind in the UK, prompting warnings of a nationwide rise in the prevalence of the bugging insect.

Researchers found that the tiny, spider-like creatures were present across the country, with the likelihood of a dog picking one up equal in both rural and urban areas.

They pose a risk as they can transmit bacteria that might cause infections such as Lyme disease, which can actually cause conditions including meningitis or heart failure if left untreated, even proving fatal.

Scientists from the Big Tick project at the University of Bristol examined a study of 15,000 dogs from across the UK last year, the BBC said. It found that 31% of those checked at random when taken to the vet were carrying a tick. Highest risk areas were the south-west, East Anglia and Scotland.

Prof Richard Wall, who led the whole project, said:

The work that we have carried out shows that ticks are extremely widely dispersed. The records that we have got appear to show that we have had an increase in tick numbers right across the country.

What we are primarily concerned about is the diseases that ticks carry. In the UK, we have relatively low rates of the prevalence of these pathogens at the moment and, in contrast, in continental Europe they have much higher rates of disease. As there seems to be a rise in tick numbers, we need to be concerned and be aware of the potential for increasing problems.

On the other hand, conservationist Chris Packham, who is involved in the project, said it had been tremendously significant work that had revealed some very shocking and surprising things concerning the distribution, the population and potential that ticks have to give diseases to our pets and ourselves , too!

He said pet owners should be aware of risks in woodlands and areas of long grass, but said urban areas were also affected.

Ticks and the diseases they carry have become a rapidly growing problem across the UK.

Another thing that worth pointing out is that according to Public Health England, it is estimated there are 2,000 to 3,000 new confirmed cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year, although not all cases are confirmed by laboratory testing, the BBC said.

Only about 15% of cases are in people returning from overseas.

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