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Ask a Vet
Q. We recently took Sam, our border collie, to the vet as he had started limping. The vet diagnosed Lyme disease, which he said Sam had caught from a tick. We feel so guilty as we had no idea Sam even had a tick, nor that such a small thing could be so dangerous. According to the vet, Lyme disease is becoming more common. What can we do to prevent ticks in the future?
A. Spread by bites from certain types of ticks, Lyme’s disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Sam’s lameness can be attributed to this debilitating disease, with dogs usually presenting to the vet with fever, loss of appetite or being generally ‘off colour’. Lyme’s disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early enough but if left untreated, can result in heart, neurological and arthritic problems in the long term. This and other exotic diseases are becoming more common in the UK as our increasingly warmer climate suits its tick host (see panel, right). It can easily be prevented with regular coat checks and anti-parasitic treatments. As ticks are hardy parasites, some products may not be effective, or may need to be used regularly, to keep your dog tick-free.
Everyone’s talking about... climate change
With the UK’s average temperatures rising, and the Pets Travel Scheme up and running, vets are reporting an increase in the number of cases of exotic diseases among British pets. Examples include:
- Babesiosis, a tick-borne disease that causes anaemia and liver disease in dogs.
- Ehrlichiosis, also carried by ticks, causes similar symptoms to Babesiosis.
- Heartworm, spread by certain types of mosquito. The parasite develops into a large worm that lives in the infected dog’s heart.
- Leishmaniasis, spread by the bite of infected sand flies, leads to weight loss, skin conditions, liver disease and, usually, death.
- African Horse Sickness, spread by a type of midge, causes severe heart and lung disease and death in dogs.
Scott Miller is a regular on TV’s BBC Breakfast News and This Morning and also works with numerous UK and international charities. He is the author of a new book called Puppy Parenting (Hamlyn, £12.99), and spends much of his free time with his troublesome border terrier, Betty.
Originally published in Petplan’s PetPeople magazine.