* Dog owners warned about deadly tick-borne disease Babesiosis found in UK for first time | Daily Mail Online

Source: Dog owners warned about deadly tick-borne disease Babesiosis found in UK for first time | Daily Mail Online


PUBLISHED: 17:16, 16 March 2016 | UPDATED: 00:58, 17 March 2016

  • Babesiosis has been seen in Britain for the first time after apparently travelling on an animal which used a ‘pet passport’
  • One dog has died from the immune disease and four are seriously ill
  • The initial outbreak came in Harlow, Essex but it could spread further 

Potentially fatal tick arrives in the UK and is infecting dogs

Dog owners have been warned that their pets could fall victim to a devastating tick-borne disease which has come to Britain for the first time.

One dog has already died and four are seriously ill after they contracted babesiosis, which causes animals’ immune systems to attack their own blood cells.

The parasite which causes the illness is believed to have entered the UK on an animal using the ‘pet passports’ scheme, and could be extra dangerous because British vets are not experienced in treating it.

The babesioisis outbreak started in Harlow, Essex, but there are fears it could now spread more widely.

Danger: Ticks like these are carrying the deadly illness babesiosis, which has already killed one dog in Britain

Local vet Clive Swainsbury, who has treated some of the affected dogs, told the BBC that the disease – which must be treated with a blood transfusion – will prove hard to detect.

He also warned that efforts to contain the spread of the parasite could be thwarted by wild animals which catch the illness.

‘At present we have a very well-defined area,’ Mr Swainsbury said. ‘The problem in the future is that every female tick will lay a couple of thousand eggs and all those offspring from that disease will also carry the disease.

‘As mammals move around they will start spreading the disease. Although you can advise dog walkers not to go there, it’s possible that foxes and other animals will transport these ticks.’

Hunt: Wildlife presenter Chris Packham with academic Richard Wall hunting for the ticks in Essex

Bite: When the illness enters dogs’ systems it causes their immune system to attack its own blood cells

In a message to dog owners, Harlow Council said the ticks concerned were ‘extremely rare’ in Britain, but urged them to protect their pets with anti-tick treatments and check for the bugs regularly.

The council has also signposted the area thought to contain the ticks.

Harlow councillor Mark Wilkinson said the area was popular with dog walkers, however he sought to reassure pet owners that the alert was ‘purely precautionary’ at this point.

He added: ‘Further tests are going to be carried out on the land once the weather improves and if necessary further advice will be issued.

‘The council is also in contact with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and is seeking any further advice from them.’

Eradication: Experts are concerned that wild animals will be able to spread the disease around Britain

Owners are advised to do a thorough body check of their dog to find ticks, which are visible to the naked eye but can be drawn to dark, hidden areas of the animal’s body such as ears, groin and between the toes.

Signs of ticks include dogs excessively scratching or licking a particular area.

To remove a tick, owners are advised to use tweezers to grip the tick by the head and pull it straight out, and not to twist, burn or apply anything to the skin.

To kill the tick once it has been removed, put it in a small amount of alcohol, rather than squash it.

Professor Richard Wall from the University of Bristol who is leading The Big Tick Project, a study of ticks and tick-borne disease, said the recent babesia cases in Essex were of huge significance and a major concern for animal health.

A spokesman for pet insurance firm Animal Friends said: ‘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.

‘With spring just around the corner, we are approaching tick season and this outbreak means that owners need to be more vigilant than ever before.’

 Source: Dog owners warned about deadly tick-borne disease Babesiosis found in UK for first time | Daily Mail Online

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