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Be tick aware: when and where to check cats and dogs for ticks
  1. Ian Wright1,
  2. Benjamin Cull2,
  3. Emma L Gillingham2,
  4. Kayleigh M Hansford2 and
  5. Jolyon Medlock2
  1. 1The Mount Veterinary Practice, Fleetwood, UK
  2. 2Department of Medical Entomology and Zoonoses Ecology, Public Health England, Porton Down, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence; hammondia{at}hotmail.com

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Tickborne disease represents a long established risk to human and pet populations. Increasing pet travel and importation is occurring concurrently with an expanding distribution of tick vectors and tickborne diseases, bringing new challenges for veterinarians. In the UK, the most common tick species, Ixodes ricinus, bites humans and companion animals, and can put both groups at risk of endemic diseases such as Lyme disease.1–5 The prevalence of Lyme disease-causing Borrelia in ticks removed from dogs and cats in the UK is low, approximately 2 per cent.1 4 5 Recent large-scale incidence data for Lyme disease in cats and dogs are lacking but the presence of causative agents in ticks attached to cats and dogs demonstrates that they are being exposed to infection. The wide range of non-pathognomonic ways in which Lyme disease can present also means it is likely to be underdiagnosed. Dogs and cats may also act as transport hosts for infected ticks, moving them into new locations. Other tickborne diseases may also pose a risk. For example, Babesia canis has recently been reported for the first time in the UK6 and increasing numbers of Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks are being found on recently travelled or imported dogs.7 These threats make tick surveillance and accurate tick prevention advice for people and their companion animals vital for both human and animal health.

Veterinary professionals should recommend licensed tick preventive products that rapidly kill or repel ticks for pets whose lifestyle puts them at increased risk of tick exposure or for pets travelling abroad (ESCCAP UK & Ireland). In addition, owners should check themselves and their pets regularly and safely remove any ticks found. …

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