New Year New diseases

Since graduating in 2010 in my short veterinary career I have seen new diseases arrive in England including Schmallenberg virus in sheep/ cows, more recently Babesia in dogs not going outside of the UK and Seasonal Canine Illness to name a few.

The latest headlines in the media have been regarding ticks and Tick Bourne Encephalitis (TBE). What do you need to know?

Small numbers of ticks have been found to be carrying the virus that causes TBE in Thetford forest (on our doorstep) and also on the Hampshire/ Dorset border.

It is a disease found in ticks in mainland Europe which has now been found in ticks in England. The concern is that exotic tick borne diseases are becoming established in the UK. This is mainly due to the removal of compulsory tick treatment when animals are visiting Europe, as a result the dogs or cats become infected and bring those ticks back. Which in turn causes spread of the disease to our own tick population. The other concerns of how the disease can enter is through rescue dogs which are imported from Europe. The ticks from Europe often favour a warmer environment but with global warming does this have a part to play in allowing those ticks populations to survive longer in this country?

Dogs and cats cannot directly transmit TBE to humans but they can pick up the ticks carrying the virus. Clinical signs in affected dogs can be similar to those seen in people. Humans can also be bitten by infected ticks and develop clinical signs of TBE.

Clinical signs in dogs include uncoordinated movements, abnormal reflexes, paralysis which can be progressive and lead to death.

Ticks can carry many other diseases not just TBE virus but also Lymes disease and Babesia so it is always a good idea to ensure adequate tick protection, especially living in Suffolk close to areas such as Thetford forest which is the ideal habitat for ticks.

Ensure you regularly check for ticks and remove them, speak to your vet to discuss tick hocks a very handy piece of equipment. Tick checks are very important especially when returning from abroad. If any ticks are found these can be sent to the tick surveillance scheme which can help keep track of the types of ticks in the UK and also any diseases. If you need to discuss tick prevention or treatment in your pets please contact your local vet.