British dog owners should be on the alert for canine babesiosis, a fatal tick disease in dogs, following its recent spread to the UK for the first time. Thought to have been imported from mainland Europe, new cases of this tick-borne disease have been reported in Harlow, Essex, with at least two dogs dead and more seriously ill. Experts say that its spread to the rest of the country is inevitable, so it is vital for dog owners to be aware of the condition, its symptoms and how to prevent it.
The spread of canine babesiosis
Canine babesiosis, the Latin name for tick disease in dogs, is contracted when a parasite carried by ticks enters the bloodstream and causes the dog’s immune system to destroy its own red blood cells, resulting in severe anaemia.
The recent UK outbreak is thought to have been caused by a relaxation in regulations governing pet travel within Europe. While dogs entering the UK before 2012 were required to be checked and treated for ticks, updated regulations no longer require this. With this tick-borne disease now infecting dogs within the UK who have not travelled abroad, it is very likely that it will spread further throughout the UK.
Dog tick disease prevention
Diseases transmitted by ticks can be deadly. In addition to the potentially fatal canine babesiosis, other serious tick-borne conditions include Lyme Disease, which can cause inflammation of the joints and kidney failure in dogs. Therefore, preventing tick-borne disease is very important. Here are some key points to consider:
- – Check your dog daily for ticks, especially if they have been outside. Ticks can be present wherever wildlife, livestock or vegetation provide them with a warm and hospitable environment to thrive – and this can include farmland, woodland, parks and urban gardens. Remove ticks immediately if found.
- – Know your local area and be extra vigilant in places with a higher risk of contracting tick disease in dogs, or where there have been known cases of canine babesiosis. Be aware that canine babesiosis is an animal disease that can be spread by contact with other dogs.#
- – Use an anti-tick treatment as a preventative measure. Always check with your vet to ensure that the product you choose is right for your pet.
Symptoms and treatment
Canine babesiosis can kill – so it is important for dog owners to be on the lookout for symptoms, and to act quickly if they occur. Symptoms of tick disease in dogs include:
- – Lethargy
- – Loss of appetite
- – Fever
- – Anaemia
- – Pale gums
- – Enlarged abdomen
- – Coloured urine and / or discoloured stools
- – Weight loss
- – Jaundice
If your dog displays these symptoms or you suspect that your dog has a tick infection, contact your vet immediately. On diagnosis through a blood test, the treatment for canine babesiosis involves eradicating the parasite to prevent the immune system from destroying more red blood cells.
Safe pet travel
While legislation governing pet travel has been relaxed, we recommend caution when travelling with your pet, especially in the light of the recent case of tick disease in dogs. Always check your dog for ticks before travelling to a new country, and consult your vet to ask about suitable tick prevention treatments to use before your trip.