As part of the big tick project, supported by MSD Animal Health in collaboration with Bristol University, veterinary surgeons in the UK examined dogs during routine consultations very carefully for the presence of ticks. The study found that 2181 out 7101 dogs (or one in three) was found to have one or more ticks present. 89% of ticks found were Ixodes ricinus.
Ticks can be involved in the transmission of many vector borne diseases, including zoonotic pathogens. Infections occur via saliva during feeding, or more rarely, after the parasite is ingested during grooming. Due to recent milder winters, there has been a continuation of tick activity resulting in the need for year round prophylactic treatment for pets.
Individual vectors may harbour more than one pathogen leading to atypical signs of a single disease. Heavy infestations of ticks removing large amounts of blood can also lead to signs of anaemia. Recently sample studies of ticks in Ireland were examined for the presence of vector borne diseases carried out by University College Dublin. Pathogens commonly identified were, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Babesia spp. and Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
Lyme disease is a common tick-transmitted disease affecting animals and humans. Ixodes ticks are recognized vectors of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. Also Babesia sp. which is transmitted by tick saliva affects animals and occasionally people. Patients present with moderate to severe haemolytic anemia, fever, anorexia, depression, splenomegaly and a bounding pulse. Dogs infected usually respond to treatment with imidocarb diproprionate and supportive treatment. Blood transfusions may be life-saving in very anemic animals. Illness of varying severity due to B felis in domestic cats has mostly been reported in southern Africa. An unusual feature of B felis is its lack of response to the normal babesiacides.