Babesiosis

What is Babesiosis?

This disease is principally a problem in dogs and is transmitted by certain species of ticks called Dermacentor species. When the tick feeds, saliva is injected into the host together with the Babesia organisms which invade and multiply in red blood cells causing them to burst. A tick biting an infected animal will become infected itself, and can go on to infect other dogs.

Affected animals develop:

  • Fever
  • Anaemia
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Red or dark urine associated with jaundice (yellow gums)

Diagnosis and Treatment

It can be a fatal disease and diagnosis is usually confirmed from blood samples. Specific drugs and supportive treatments including blood transfusions are required in severely anaemic dogs.

Prevention

You can help protect your dog against Babesiosis by using suitable veterinary advised parasite prevention products that protect against the ticks that carry the disease.
Please ask us about our FREE Travel Clinics which help you plan the appropriate disease prevention measures and also check your pet’s microchip is still active. Remember to prepare well in advance as some parasite prevention products need to be applied well before any possible exposure to parasites. Please contact your local branch for an appointment.

Useful links:
Travelling With Your Pet-What You Need To Know
Ticks

Ehrlichiosis

What is Ehrlichiosis?

Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by certain species of ticks called the Rhipicephalus species affecting white blood cells. It is passed on when a tick feeds on the blood of an infected dog or cat and then bites another.

Symptoms vary widely and may include:

  • depression
  • fever
  • swollen glands
  • bleeding into the eyes, from the nose, into the skin (bruising) and elsewhere
  • vomiting
  • nasal discharge
  • lameness

Chronic infections may progress to chronic debility, weight loss, arthritis and neurological disease including convulsions.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis is confirmed from blood samples and treatment in the early stages is usually by antibiotics. Long standing infections are less likely to respond and may prove fatal.

Prevention

You can help protect your dog against Ehrlichiosis by using suitable veterinary advised parasite prevention products that protect against the ticks that carry the disease.

Please ask us about our FREE Travel Clinics which help you plan the appropriate disease prevention measures and also check your pet’s microchip is still active. Remember to prepare well in advance as some parasite prevention products need to be applied well before any possible exposure to parasites. Please contact your local branch for an appointment.

Heartworm (Dirofilaria Immitis)

Heartworm live in the arteries and hearts of infected animals. They release larvae into their hosts’ bloodstream. When a mosquito feeds on the infected animal the larvae present in the blood are swallowed by the mosquito. These larvae are then passed via their saliva to the next animal they feed from, for example your dog or cat.

Once the larvae enter your pet, they will develop and migrate over several months to their heart. In severe cases they may clog up the right side of the heart. Dogs in particular are affected and signs can take months to develop depending on the severity of the infection.

Symptoms may include:

  • excessive panting
  • weight loss
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • being easily tired following exercise
  • heart failure
  • death if left untreated

As a mosquito is required for the lifecycle to be completed dogs and cats in this country are at little risk of contracting heartworm.

Mosquitos easily spread heartworm and you should consider this risk when thinking of travelling with your pet. You should always protect your pet against heartworm when travelling abroad. As heartworm infection can be fatal please consult your veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse before travelling with your pet as there are products available to help prevent heartworm.

Cinque Ports Vets run FREE Travel Clinics to help you plan the appropriate disease prevention measures and also check your pet’s microchip is still active.  Remember to prepare well in advance as some parasite prevention products need to be applied well before any possible exposure to parasites. Please contact your local branch for an appointment.

To check which parasites your pet may be exposed to, log on to www.esccapuk.org.uk and under the ‘Travelling Pets’ section you will find European parasite distribution maps. These maps are designed to help inform you of the parasitic threats present in different countries.

Lyme Disease (Borreliosis)

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial disease which affects both humans and animals. The disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which are transmitted to humans and dogs following a bite from an infected tick from the species known as Ixodes. It’s the most common tick borne disease in Europe, and the number of reported human cases has risen dramatically in the UK in recent years, with an increase of over 300% since the year 2000. With a recent survey showing that 15% of dogs are carrying ticks, unknown to their owners, the risk to our pets can’t be ignored.

Which dogs are at risk?

Ticks are found practically everywhere, from forests to gardens to vegetation on beaches. Tick numbers tend to be higher in certain areas, such as woodland, moorland, rough pasture and heathland. Urban/city parks, especially larger parks where deer are present, are also suitable habitats for ticks. So if you regularly go walking in this type of area, your dog could be at significant risk of picking up an infected tick.

Signs of Lyme disease

The disease is transmitted when an infected tick climbs on to the dog and starts to feed. The process of disease transmission generally takes around 48 hours, although it can occur more rapidly. In some dogs, infection does not cause any harmful effects but in others, a variety of symptoms can be seen.
The most common signs are:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Joint swellings
  • Stiffness when moving

The disease can also affect the nervous system and the heart. In rare cases, serious kidney problems can develop which are very difficult to treat. These signs can take a long time to develop, sometimes several months, after a dog is bitten by an infected tick.The intensity of these symptoms can fluctuate for months, and if left undiagnosed can lead to permanent disability.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis can be difficult, as the signs are similar to a wide range of other diseases, but blood tests to measure immunity levels to Borrelia can be useful. Other tests are available which can detect the bacteria in tissue samples, such as skin or joint tissue. Treatment usually consists of antibiotics, plus anti-inflammatories to control the painful lameness which can be seen. Although treatment usually gives rapid results in the short term, it is very difficult to get rid of the bacteria, and relapses can occur. Prevention is certainly better than cure.

Prevention

There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of Lyme disease for your dog. You can help protect your dog from Lyme Disease by using suitable veterinary advised products. These are designed to protect against the ticks that carry the disease.

Vaccination is an important way of protecting your pet and a vaccine against Lyme disease is now available in the UK. A primary vaccine course of two injections are required followed by annual boosters.

Avoiding high risk areas, particularly during periods of peak tick activity during Spring and Autumn, can help. Carefully examining your dog after walks to identify and then remove ticks is important, as removal of ticks within 48 hours of attachment helps to reduce the risk of disease transmission. And don’t forget that Lyme disease affects humans too, so take appropriate steps to protect yourself against ticks, such as covering up exposed skin and checking yourself carefully for ticks.

Please ask us about our FREE Travel Clinics which help you plan the appropriate disease prevention measures and also check your pet’s microchip is still active. Even if you aren’t travelling abroad you should still protect your pet. Remember to prepare well in advance as some parasite prevention products need to be applied well before any possible exposure to parasites. Please contact your local branch for an appointment.

Click on the video below to find out more about Lyme Disease.

Useful links:
Lyme Disease Pet Owner Information Leaflet

Rabies

What is Rabies?

Rabies is caused by a virus. It is a zoonotic viral disease which means it can affect BOTH people and animals and is usually transmitted through a bite by an infected animal. It is almost always fatal both to animals and humans once symptoms have developed.

The incubation period of Rabies varies. The average length of time for clinical signs to appear is 4 weeks after infection and can be seen in three phases:

Phase One: Local irritation of the bite wound, mild changes in demeanour, behaviour and temperament. Pupils will be dilated and eye reflexes slow.

Phase Two: Aggression, lack of co-ordination, disorientation, seizures and fits, increased salivation and photophobia (intolerance to light).

Phase Three: Paralysis, excessive salivation, respiratory failure, coma and then death.

The UK is officially classified as free from Rabies but the disease persists in other parts of the world.

There is no treatment available for animals with Rabies and if it is suspected, the pet will be kept in isolation and DEFRA notified. They will then arrange for euthanasia and a post mortem.

To travel abroad with your pet it is mandatory that the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme are adhered to. They include a Rabies vaccination (boostered regularly), a microchip and a valid pet passport.

Useful links:

https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad

Pet Passports

Many of us take our pets on holiday to Europe and there has been some uncertainty surrounding this with Brexit. Here is the latest information and it is, for now, good news for travelling furry friends.

It was announced that the current pet passport scheme will be continuing in its present form during a transition period lasting until December 31, 2020.

The official guidance can be found here https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad and we are happy to help with everything which needs to be done, including, of course, providing pet passports.

If you are looking to travel after January 1, 2021, please take a look at https://www.gov.uk/guidan…/pet-travel-to-europe-after-brexit or give us a call. We are always happy to help.


The PETS travel scheme allows domestic dogs and cats to accompany their owners abroad to certain countries and return to the UK without undergoing quarantine.  The qualifying countries include member states of the EEC, USA and Canada. This means you can now go on holiday with your pet as long as you fulfil the conditions of the scheme.

The PETS scheme requires a large number of conditions to be met and you should research them well. All the latest information is available on the DEFRA website www.defra.gov.uk/pets or call their hotline on 03702411710. You should always check the rules with DEFRA before travelling even if you are only going to the EU as they vary widely from country to country.

From the 1st January 2012 the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) rules changed.

Here are the main conditions of the scheme:

  • Your pet must have a permanent microchip implanted before they are given their rabies vaccination.
  • They must be vaccinated against rabies but not before they are 3 calendar months old. Boosters are then required and MUST be kept up to date as lapses can mean restarting the pet passport again.
  • A pet passport will be signed and issued to you by an OV (Official Veterinarian).
  • A rabies blood test is no longer needed after a rabies vaccination although if requested we can still perform a blood test at an additional cost to check your pets rabies antibody titre level.
  • Pets can travel to EU countries and return to the UK from EU countries 3 weeks after a rabies vaccination.
  • The mandatory requirement to treat for ticks before entry to the UK has been withdrawn.
  • The mandatory requirement to treat for tapeworms before entry to the UK is still in place but will apply to dogs only. Not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1-5 days) before their scheduled arrival time in the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme, your dog must be treated against tapeworm and the treatment recorded in the EU pet passport.

Veterinary surgeons are very concerned that the changes to the PETS rules, specifically the removal of mandatory tick treatment, could lead to an increase in parasites and vector-borne parasitic disease in pets in the UK. To check which parasites your pet may be exposed to, log on to ESCCAP UK website and under the ‘Travelling Pets’ section you will find European parasite distribution maps. These maps are designed to help inform you of the parasitic threats present in different countries so that appropriate preventative measures can be put in place to protect your pet. Some of these diseases for example Leishmaniasis, Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis can be fatal.

There are vaccines available which offer dog owners the opportunity for a new level of protection against canine Leishmaniosis and Lyme Disease. A course of vaccines are required along with an annual booster. If you are interested in learning more about the vaccines please speak to your veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse.

We offer FREE Travel Clinic appointments to help you plan the appropriate disease prevention measures and also check your pet’s microchip to confirm it is still active. Remember to prepare well in advance as some parasite prevention products need to be applied well before any possible exposure to parasites. Please contact your local branch for an appointment.

Please contact DEFRA or your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets for more information on pet travel.

Useful links:
www.defra.gov.uk/pets
www.esccapuk.org.uk

Travelling With Your Pet-What You Need To Know

Important news for owners of pets travelling abroad
The bad news:

Since the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) was introduced in 2000, there have been an increasing number of pets returning to the UK with ‘exotic’ diseases. There is concern that some of these diseases are becoming endemic to the UK with potentially serious consequences for both human and animal health.
The following lists some of these diseases and how pets may pick up infection:

DISEASE SPREAD BY
Leishmaniosis Sandflies
Heartworm Mosquitoes
Babesiosis Ticks
Ehrlichiosis Ticks
Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm Small rodents (if eaten)
Rabies Bite/saliva from another infected animal

From the 1st January 2012 the compulsory requirement to treat for ticks before entering the UK was lifted. The aim of the PETS legislation has always been to protect human health rather than animal health and following these guidelines alone will NOT guarantee the health of your pets travelling abroad.

The distribution of many of the above ‘exotic’ diseases is changing rapidly. This may be due to better surveillance and diagnosis, which allows us to map parasite and disease distribution better, but it may also be due to changing climates allowing vectors, e.g. mosquitoes, to increase their geographical range. Increased animal travel generally allows greater spread of disease, just as human travel can increase the spread of disease.

The good news:

More information is now available to UK vets to help us assess the risk of disease to pets travelling abroad and we are now  able to advise pet owners on disease prevention protocols. There are a number of products available that can help reduce the risk of pet exposure to insects and ticks that spread disease, and for the control of tapeworms which can present potentially serious problems for human health should infected dogs enter the UK. However there is no single treatment that covers all the parasites. An assessment of the risks facing each pet is needed, which will depend on which countries your pet will be going to and the time of year the travel will be taking place.

There is now a vaccine available which offers dog owners the opportunity for a new level of protection against canine leishmaniosis. A course of vaccines are required along with an annual booster. If you are interested in learning more about the vaccine please speak to your veterinary nurse at your local branch.

If you would like to receive further advice about appropriate disease prevention measures for your pets whilst travelling abroad, please contact your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets and ask for a Travel Clinic appointment with your veterinary nurse. Please bring to the clinic all the PETS travel documentation that you currently have and your planned itinerary.
Don’t forget cats need to be protected against parasites aswell!

Ideally, the travel clinic appointment should be made at least two weeks, preferably one month, before your intended departure abroad as some of the disease prevention products need to be given well before potential exposure to parasites. Exotic disease prevention and treatment is a fast moving field of veterinary medicine. To ensure your pet is well protected against disease, we recommend contacting us before each trip abroad to check whether the advice regarding disease prevention protocols has changed and to confirm that your pet’s microchip is still active.

Useful links:
Pet Passports
Ticks
Pet Travel Scheme-Tick Treatment Rules
ESCCAP Leaflet-Travelling Pets?

Pet Travel Scheme – Tick Treatment Rules

I have heard that the requirement to treat animals travelling under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) for ticks before coming into the UK has changed. Is this correct?

Yes, from 1st January 2012 under the new PETS rules, there is no longer a compulsory requirement to treat cats or dogs with tick treatments before entering the UK.

Why has this change been made?

It has been difficult to make a water‐tight scientific case for the continuation of compulsory tick treatments for animals entering the UK. Over the past decade exotic ticks and their tick borne diseases have occasionally been identified in the UK and ticks can also enter this country on farm animals.

Does this mean that I can forget about tick treatment for my pets?

No. In fact it remains critically important for the health and welfare of both pets and people that exotic ticks, especially the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), do not enter and establish in the UK.

How are these exotic ticks harmful?

The brown dog tick can transmit a disease called babesiosis via its bite. Babesia are microscopic parasites that live in red blood cells and can cause serious illness in both pets and people. In the acute form of the disease, Babesia cause sudden rupture of red blood cells resulting in a life threatening form of anaemia. In the subacute or chronic forms, pets are anaemic, lethargic and debilitated. Diagnostic tests often show kidney and liver damage caused by the Babesia.

But surely exotic ticks won’t be able to live in colder climates such as that of the UK?

Unfortunately, some species of exotic ticks can survive very easily in the UK’s climate. Indeed the brown dog tick can even live out its entire lifecycle in a home, successfully breeding and re‐infecting the same or other pets and people within a household.

Are you saying that ticks can spread diseases to people?

Yes, as well as babesiosis, ticks carry Lyme Disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which can affect both people and animals. Lyme disease causes flu like symptoms on initial infection. Left untreated, muscles, joints, the heart and nervous system can become affected. Lyme disease is already present in the UK, therefore there is a need for pet owners to be vigilant about tick control even if their pet never travels overseas. A‘zoonosis’ is the technical term for an infectious disease in animals that can be transmitted to people, and where the animal is the natural reservoir for the infectious agent.

Is it easy to treat babesiosis?

There are currently no medicines licensed for the treatment of babesiosis in the UK and very few vets currently have immediate access to suitable medicines to ensure prompt treatment of affected animals. Vets have to request permission from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to import the necessary medicines. Severely affected pets often require intensive nursing and supportive care, so the cost of treating a pet with babesiosis can be substantial. There is no guarantee that affected pets will survive the infection.

Summary

The compulsory requirement to treat pets coming into the UK under the PETS scheme for ticks was removed on 1st January 2012.

The need to treat pets for ticks for animal and human health and welfare reasons remains as strong as ever.

We urge pet owners to check with their veterinary surgeon to ensure that every animal travelling under the Pet Travel Scheme is given suitable protection so that animals coming into the UK do not bring harmful parasites or parasite transmissable diseases with them.

Useful links:
Ticks
Travelling With Your Pet-What you need to know

Ticks

What are ticks?

Ticks are blood sucking parasites related to spiders. Adults have a pointed head, a body and four pairs of legs. Mouth parts, which possess a barbed structure, protrude from the head. A tick’s body is capable of considerable distension to accommodate the blood that the tick sucks from the host animal it infests.

The tick lifecycle

Hungry ticks position themselves on vegetation and attach to passing animals. 

The mouthparts pierce the animal’s skin and the barbed structure is then used to anchor the tick to the animal for several days. 

A tick will then feed over several days, sucking blood and passing saliva back into the host.

Once a female tick is fully fed or engorged, she drops off the host animal to lay her thousands of eggs in the environment.

Tiny larval ticks (1mm in size) that hatch from the eggs have to find a host on which to feed. They then moult to the nymph stage which also feeds on blood.

After a second moult, the tick develops into a male or female approximately 4-6 mm in size. Only the female takes blood to any extent and they can reach the size of a small grape.

Tick species and where they are found

In the UK

The species of tick most likely to infest dogs in the UK is Ixodes ricinus.  It is found in woodland and rough upland regions and is well known in deer parks. The immature stages of this tick often infest small mammals or birds, but the adult stages tend to attach to larger animals such as deer, sheep or dogs.

In parks and urban environments it is often the hedgehog tick, Ixodes hexagonus that is found on dogs and cats. As its name suggests, it is related to the sheep tick and it is a specialised skill to tell the two species apart.

In Europe

Dermacentor reticulatus is the so-called ornate tick; its back is covered in brown and cream patterning. This tick occurs in some parts of England but is predominantly found across Continental Europe from southern Germany southwards.

Rhipicephalus sanguineus is also known as the brown dog tick.  It occurs worldwide and is found in more southern areas of Europe. It is typically associated with dogs and their accommodation. It can survive and replicate (breed) indoors in the UK.  This is of concern because from 1st January 2012 under the new Pet Travel Scheme rules there is no longer a compulsory requirement to treat cats or dogs with tick treatments before entering the UK.  This is likely to result in increased numbers of this tick entering the country and the possible wide spread establishment of tick populations principally in urban areas. 

Ixodes ricinus is common in more northern areas of Europe in particular.

Why I should I worry about ticks?

Ticks can cause localised irritation to pets and, if they are scratched off and the mouthparts left behind, small abscesses can result. 

Ticks can spread diseases such as:

Lyme Disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium can affect both people and animals.  Lyme disease causes flu like symptoms on initial infection.  Left untreated, muscles, joints, the heart and nervous system can become affected.  Lyme disease is present in the UK.

Babesiosis is carried mainly by the foreign or ‘exotic’ species of ticks. Babesia are microscopic parasites that live in red blood cells and can cause serious illness in both animals and people. In the acute form of the disease, Babesia cause sudden rupture of red blood cells resulting in a life threatening form of anaemia. In the subacute or chronic forms, animals are anaemic, lethargic and debilitated.  Diagnostic tests often show kidney and liver damage caused by Babesia.

Tick-borne diseases such as that caused by Babesia are more likely to be acquired after a tick has been attached for more than 24 hours. Daily checking for ticks and removing them promptly will greatly reduce the chance of ticks spreading tick borne diseases to your pet.

How can I tell if my pet has ticks?

Ticks attach to an animal by embedding their mouthparts into the skin. The size of a small bean, they often look like an immobile growth or wart attached to the pet. 

As they continue to suck blood, the body of the tick expands. Many owners only notice a tick when it has already been feeding for several days and has engorged to full size.

An engorged tick will often have a grey or brown body, larval stages (hardly ever seen) or ticks that are not yet engorged look lighter in colour, sometimes white.

Ticks commonly attach to an animal’s head and legs but they can be found anywhere on an animal’s body.

What should I do if I find a tick on my pet?

Use a proprietary ‘tick remover’ that enables the tick to be removed without the embedded mouth parts being left behind to cause a small abscess. It is a good idea to have one of these tick removers as part of a first aid box for your pet. Alternatively contact your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets and your veterinary nurse will be happy to remove them for you.

Tick control

Check your pet on a daily basis for ticks and remove them before they have been attached for any length of time. 

Consider using a tick control product on a regular basis to reduce the number of ticks that can establish a hold on your pet and to reduce the chances of any ticks that do attach from spreading tick-borne diseases.

A vaccine is available for dogs to help protect against Lyme Disease which is transmitted by the Ixodes species of ticks. A primary vaccine course of two injections would be required followed by annual boosters. Please contact us for more information.

Please note that some tick control products can be toxic to cats therefore please talk to your vet about using regular tick control products to ensure they are used correctly and safely and part of a parasite control programme tailored to the individual pet and its specific lifestyle factors.

‘Ticks And How To Prevent Them’

Please see ‘Travelling with Your Pet’ in our Information sheets for more guidance on parasite control abroad.

Useful links:
Lyme Disease
www.itsajungle.co.uk

ESCCAP Leaflet – Ticks