A strain of tick which is native to Europe has gained a foothold in the United Kingdom.
Scientists discovered five of the blood sucking beasties in Wales and the south-east of England as part of a search for the pests.
More than 3,500 dogs were checked out in 173 veterinary practices, and any ticks found were shipped off to the lab for analysis.
This particular species of meadow tick is known to carry several types of infection that have, up to now, failed to spread to the UK.
Faith Smith, who led the study on behalf of the University of Bristol, told the BBC:
“We asked the vets to check dogs totally at random; to check any dog coming in for any reason.”
“That gave us a broad sample of dogs, and in many cases their owners weren’t aware that they had picked up a tick.”
In addition to identifying this new species of tick, it was found that 15 per cent of UK dogs had ticks at any one time during the summer months.
The breeds of dog more prone to an infestation were pastoral, terrier and gundog breeds, along with long-haired dogs.
Researchers have theorised that the gradually warming climate and increased global mobility of people and animals has contributed to thriving tick numbers.
Miss Smith said:
“Studies have been done to show that the distribution of Ixodes ricinus (the sheep tick) has shifted northwards in continental Europe in the past few decades, and that the species has been found at higher altitudes.”
“So it is possible that climate change will affect certain species of ticks.”
She went on to stress the all importance of vigilance in dog owners; as ticks do not begin to spread any infection for up to two days, the window of opportunity exists to rid your pet of them before they contract a disease.
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