European blood-sucking tick hits UK
A breed of blood-sucking tick normally found in continental Europe has been discovered in the United Kingdom for the first time.
Researchers from the University of Bristol also found that the number of dogs infested with all species of the parasites was far higher than previously thought.
They raised fears that there is an increased risk of disease carried by the ticks infecting people and animals in this country, including some brought in for the first time by the foreign tick, Dermacentor reticulates, thought to have arrived here because of climate change.
Professor Richard Wall, head of the veterinary parasitology group at the university, which carried out the research, said: "This is an important study because the results suggest that the risk of tick infestation is far higher in dogs than was previously thought. This has serious implications for the incidence of tick-borne disease.
"The study also confirms that a non-native species of tick, which is also a major disease vector in Europe, is now established in southern England."
Dog ticks can be infected with a number of tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, which left untreated can damage the heart and nervous system of humans.
The research, published in the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology, studied 3,500 dogs that were treated by 173 veterinary surgeries across the country. They found that at any one time 14.9% dogs were infested with ticks.
Their research was looking at how global temperature rises and movements of people and animals might affect populations of "ectoparasites".
Gun dogs such as retrievers, setters and spaniels, plus terriers and pastoral breeds traditionally used to guard livestock were found to be most susceptible to infestation. Longer-haired dogs were more susceptible to ticks than short-haired breeds.
The foreign species was found in south-east England and west Wales, raising fears that it is now a permanent resident.