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tick borne diseases

How does climate change affect tick borne diseases?

A 2019 parliamentary briefing describes how changes in the climate may influence the types and distribution of organisms, such as ticks and mosquitoes that can spread disease. There are many factors that affect the spread of a species, but climate change is undoubtedly having a great impact. We have seen new varieties of ticks appear in the United Kingdom, along with changes in the occurrence of tick-borne diseases in our pets. The most likely reason for these changes is longer summer seasons along with warmer and wetter weather in spring or autumn; enabling ticks to be active for longer and increasing the risk of disease spread. 

Tick borne diseases

Lyme disease is the most common disease in the UK spread by organisms. Public Health England estimates there to be 3,000 cases annually. The same ticks, Ixodes ricinus, that spread Lyme’s Disease are also capable of spreading Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE). Tick-Borne Encephalitis is caused by a virus that has been present in mainland Europe and Asia tick populations but never previously in the UK.

An October 2019 Public Health England statement announced the first detection of TBE in the UK. Most people who catch TBE will have non-specific flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all, other people can progress to a more serious disease involving the central nervous system that rarely can be fatal.

Dogs can not directly transmit the TBE virus to people however they can pick up the disease carrying ticks. Dogs are more resistant to the TBE virus than humans but when affected the symptoms are the same. 

Tick borne disease protection

The best protection against all tick borne disease is to be aware of the risks ticks can pose and take preventative measures.

How to protect yourself

  • Stick to paths in peak tick season when visiting moorlands, woodlands and parks.
  • Avoid wearing sandals and having bare limbs in these types of areas.

How to Protect My Pet

  • If your pet is at risk of coming into contact with ticks, ensure you are using regular parasite control products with action against ticks.
  • Regularly check your pet all over for the presence of ticks.
  • Have a tick remover ready to extract any that you see. It is important that ticks are removed with their mouthparts intact, otherwise they are still an infection risk. 
  • Use a regular flea, tick and worm treatment such as Frontline Plus for dogs. Frontline Plus contains Fipronil helps to prevent adult ticks from attaching to your dog and reduce the spread of tick borne diseases.

Read our guide on how to correctly remove dog ticks

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Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS

Visit Public Health England for further information. 

View our other blog posts to discover advice and tips from our vet team.