You’ve got two yeses! A number of studies have shown that ticks are thriving and moving into new areas. Since they need heat and humidity to be successful, climate change is involved but there are many other factors, including changes to habitat (town planners bringing “green” corridors into cities), increasing abundance of hosts (particularly deer) and the increased movement of people and animals (as we take to the hills with our dogs). Add to that recent cases of exotic diseases hitherto not seen in the UK and we should all be concerned.
Ticks are globally important arthropod transmitters of disease. All have similar lifecycles. Adult females feed on large mammals, such as sheep, deer, humans and dogs, then drop off, lay a few thousand eggs and die. Larvae hatch and feed on insects, birds and small rodents before moulting into nymphs. These “quest” by climbing up twigs or grass, waiting for small mammals to pass. If the air dries, they have to return to the moist soil to avoid dehydration. Once they feed, the nymphs become adults. The whole process takes one to six years.
A recent survey carried out by Bristol University, with the participation of 1,094 veterinary practices involving 12,096 dogs, produced 6,555 ticks, of which 5,915 could be identified. The top ticks were:
Ixodes ricinus (the castor bean, sheep or deer tick) 89 per cent. This guy is increasing and probably accounts for the three fold increase in Lyme Disease in humans over the last decade. Dogs look out!
Ixodes hexagonus (hedgehog tick)
9.8 per cent.
Ixodes canisuga (dog tick) 0.8 per cent. •
Dermancentor reticulatis (ornate cow tick) found on 10 dogs. Originally confined to Wales, this tick is spreading and is capable of carrying babesiosis.
Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick) found on 13 dogs, all of whom had recently travelled to Europe. This is of grave concern because this tick carries “exotic” diseases such as babesiosis and ehrlichiosis. Adults can survive without taking a blood meal for up to 500 days. It is not welcome here!
Across the world, ticks carry an extensive range of viral, bacterial and protozoan pathogens. In the UK, the ones to worry about are:
Non-specific infections caused by a variety of bacteria can occur at tick bites. In my experience, the misguided attempts of animal or owner to inadequately or clumsily remove ticks is more likely to result in infections. •
Caused by a spirochaete bacterium, Borrelia Burgdoferi (discovered by William Burgdorfer in 1981; surely a man destined to name
These are the best tools to use for tick removal