Report suggests more green spaces means more disease-carrying ticks
DOGS may be at greater risk of catching potentially deadly lyme disease — because of measures to save the planet.
Experts have warned that actions designed to protect threatened species, such as planting more woodland and green spaces in towns and cities, could be causing a rise in tick numbers.
Research has shown that managing the environment to safeguard wildlife and increase biodiversity has lots of positive effects.
But scientists have discovered that such schemes can also provide the ideal habitat for ticks, putting dogs at greater danger of contracting lyme disease.
The warning comes in the wake of a report that suggested Britain’s soaring deer population is also fuelling a rise in the tiny blood-sucking parasites.
Read our in-depth advice guide on tick-borne illnesses
The tick study was led by the University of Glasgow alongside Scottish Natural Heritage, the James Hutton Institute and Public Health England.
Dr Caroline Millins, of the University of Glasgow, said: “We identified several widespread conservation management practices which could affect lyme disease risk.
“We found that some management activities could lead to an increased risk of lyme disease by increasing the habitat available for wildlife hosts and the tick vector.
“These activities were woodland regeneration and biodiversity policies, which increase the amount of forest bordering open areas, as well as urban greening.”
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Ticks are typically found on low-hanging tree branches, long grass, bushes and shrubs.
They jump on host animals — such as dogs, cats, mice, squirrels, rabbits, birds, deer, cows or sheep — when they pass by.
Lyme disease is a potentially debilitating inflammatory disorder which is caused by a bacteria some ticks carry.
Humans and dogs can get the disease if they are bitten by an infected tick — although there is no evidence to suggest dogs can spread it to their owners directly.
In dogs, the most obvious signs of lyme disease are a distinctive “bull’s eye” lesion around the site of the tick bite, lameness, lack of appetite and fever.
It can be a serious health problem if left untreated, leading to kidney damage and even death.
It’s estimated that around one in three dogs is carrying a tick at any one time.
In a recent survey, however, half of dog owners said they did not know that ticks can transmit deadly diseases to both humans and other dogs.
Owners who suspect their pet has lyme disease should speak to their vet.
If their condition is severe and its out of hours, they should contact their nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic.
Vets Now is open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on bank holidays and weekends, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.