The tick-borne disease, babesiosis, has now been found in dogs in the UK. It has been confirmed Babesia canis has been found in four dogs in Essex that had not travelled abroad.
Babesiosis is a malaria-like parasitic disease caused by infection with Babasia, a type of protozoal organism. This organism is introduced by a tick bite, usually a few days after the tick starts feeding. The organism infects the red blood cells and then the dog’s immune system destroys the infected cells.
Symptoms of babesiosis can range from mild to severe and include lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, anaemia, pale gums, vomiting, an enlarged abdomen, weight loss, jaundice and blood in the urine. If your dog has or had ticks and you are concerned for the health of your dog, please contact a vet immediately.
Diagnosis is based on repeat blood tests to identify the exact type of babesia infection and then appropriate treatment can be started. Although some animals respond well to therapy, others may only get clinical improvement but don’t always clear fully.
Detecting ticks – check your pet’s skin on its head first (around the mouth and ears, behind ears and on its neck),then work your way down its forelegs and the rest of its body, searching for any lumps on the skin surface.
If you find a lump – part the hair and look at it more closely (with the help of a magnifying glass, if necessary). The place where the tick attaches may or may not be painful and there may be skin swelling. It is distinguished from other skin swellings and growths because if you look closely you will see the tick’s tiny legs just behind where the head is inserted in the skin.
What to do if you find a tick – When attempting to remove a tick avoid handling the parasite directly. Wear gloves and dispose of ticks hygienically so they cannot re-attach themselves or lay eggs. The aim is to remove the whole tick, including its mouthparts without squeezing the tick’s body. Use a specially designed hook or scoop with a narrow slot that traps the tick’s mouthparts. Slide the hook under the tick at skin level so as to grip the head of the tick, then rotate the hook around the tick’s head to dislodge the mouthparts.
Do not attempt to burn, cut or pull the tick off with your fingers. If the tick is carrying any diseases, hurting or squeezing it makes it more likely to to regurgitate saliva containing the infection, into your pet. If in doubt, take your pet to the vet
How to protect your dog from ticks and tick borne disease – To reduce the risk associated with ticks on dogs, there are a variety of innovative and convenient treatments that are only available on prescription. The options available to protect dogs against ticks include spot-ons , sprays, collars and oral chewable formulations. Contact us at the Ark Veterinary Centre to discuss what treatment is most appropriate for your pet.
The following information has been released by the government following the discovery of Babesiosis in the UK:
Experts at the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) and Public Health England (PHE) are working together to investigate the locally acquired cases of canine babesiosis in Essex. Environmental tick control through vegetation management can be difficult to achieve and the use of acaricides in the environment is prohibited. The most effective control is for owners to treat dogs promptly for ticks. Ticks are associated with a range of vertebrate hosts, including livestock, wildlife and wild birds, so we cannot prevent all these routes of entry. In addition, several UK species of tick are capable of transmitting various diseases which like Babesia canis are also not notifiable. Livestock and horses imported from mainland Europe are certified to be healthy and should therefore be free of ticks and we recommend that people treat pet dogs with an appropriate treatment that kills ticks as soon as they attach, prior to bringing them from Europe.