FEARS THAT a potentially lethal foreign dog tick has arrived in the UK have been sparked by the death of a dog that had never been abroad.
‘Caffreys’, owned by Janet Hunt of Ashford in Kent, died after being bitten by the rhipicephalus tick, known as the brown dog tick, which until now has been confined to Mediterranean areas of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and other locations in southern Europe.
It is the first time a pet has been killed by a tick in the UK, prompting fears that infected insects have spread to Britain on Eurostar trains or lorries. The dog was regularly walked by her owner on a footpath near the Channel Tunnel terminal in Ashford, Kent. Foreign trucks park in a lay-by near the path.
The tick, which can also seriously affect humans, can carry a disease called babesia, which infects red blood cells, leaving humans with malaria-type symptoms including nausea, fatigue, fever, diarrhoea and anorexia.
Dogs’ immune systems respond by destroying red blood cells infected by babesia to the extent that they suffer from fatal anaemia.
‘These lorries from abroad might have something to do with the disease - I just don't know,’ said Mrs Hunt.
The disease was diagnosed by a research scientist at the University of Bristol. The veterinary school is the only one of its kind able to use DNA to spot such rare types of blood-born disease.
‘We don't know how widespread this tick is in the UK,’ said vet Dr Susan Shaw. ‘We don't know how many infected ticks there are in that area and we don't know what the risk is for other dogs.’