Dog owners are now being warned to look after their family protection dogs and other pets, and be on the lookout for signs of babesiosis, a tick-borne disease that can be fatal for dogs.
The first recorded outbreak of the disease has now been seen in the UK, with animal disease experts blaming more relaxed pet travel restrictions in Europe. The outbreak is currently restricted to Harlow in Essex but it’s thought that it is inevitable it will spread throughout the UK, the Guardian reports.
So far, one dog has died and three have fallen seriously ill after contracting the disease, with none of the four affected having travelled out of the UK.
The vet in Harlow who first identified the disease in this country, Clive Swainsbury, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the area is localised and well defined at the moment but the problem is that each female tick will lay thousands of eggs, all of which will carry the disease.
“The parasite enters the bloodstream and in the process of trying to kill the parasite, the dog will destroy its own blood cells and become very, very anaemic. The only way [to deal with it] is to kill the tick quickly, because the tick has to be feeding for 24 hours at least before it transmits the disease,” he explained.
Dogs that spend a lot of time outside or in wooded areas are more likely to be bitten by ticks, so make sure you check your pets over thoroughly when you’ve taken them for a walk. Symptoms of babesiosis include lack of energy and appetite, a fever, weight loss, pale gums and yellow or orange skin.