Experts have joined forces to raise awareness about the dangers of Lyme disease following new research highlighting a worrying lack of knowledge about the deadly disease.
Despite recent media attention highlighting the risk of Lyme disease, 44 per cent* of British pet owners admit they don’t provide regular preventative tick treatment for their pet, as experts join forces to warn that tick borne disease can be severely debilitating to pets as well as humans.
The disease can lead to kidney disease and death although the primary symptoms include a fever of between 103 and 105°, lameness, swelling in the joints, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
More than 60 per cent (61 per cent) of pet owners admit they are worried about ticks spreading disease to their pet, as nearly a third (29 per cent) say they have discovered a tick on their pet.
The research among 4,000 dog and cat owners, commissioned by Bayer Animal Health, supports the national tick awareness campaign ‘No Bite Is Right’, which aims to educate pet owners about the importance of tick prevention. Owners are also encouraged to speak to their vet about preventative tick products.
Ticks can carry a number of diseases, many of which are harmful to both pets and humans, and can be transmitted in less than a day after being bitten by an infected tick**. One of these diseases is Lyme Disease which can result in symptoms including: fever, lameness, lethargy, swollen joints and loss of appetite. Other diseases include: Ehrlichiosis, a bacterial infection which attacks white blood cells and Babesiosis, a malaria-like parasitic disease which causes fever and aching.
Jenny Helm, University of Glasgow Veterinary Clinician, says: “In recent years I have noticed and been made aware from owners and other vets, of a steady rise in tick numbers across the country. With this there is an increased risk of potentially fatal tick-borne diseases being transmitted to pets. However, if a tick can be killed before it bites, this avoids the risk and provides vital protection to the pet”.
Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at Bristol University, says: “Research has shown that in recent years, tick abundance has increased and the period of seasonal activity has extended in many areas. Climate change, particularly warmer, wet winters have had direct effects on tick feeding as well as impacting indirectly on vegetation cover and creating a more suitable habitat. The increase in deer numbers, habitat modification by conservation and changes in farming practices have also all contributed to the growth in numbers.”
It is estimated there are between 2,000 and 3,000 new confirmed human cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year***, although 15 per cent of these are acquired while people are abroad.
Stella Huyshe-Shires, from charity Lyme Disease Action, says: “Lyme is a rapidly emerging disease in the UK and a number of experienced healthcare professionals believe the increase in reported cases reflects a genuine rise over the last 20 years, and not just increased awareness leading to more diagnosis. There appears to have been an increase in ticks and, in turn, an increase in the prevalence of Lyme borreliosis in ticks.”
Supporting this latest survey, findings from previous pet owner research**** confirmed that 96% of pet owners would be happier using a tick product knowing that ticks are repelled before biting and feeding.
Belinda Kinnon, Product Manager at Bayer Animal Health says: “Owner education is key when it comes to communicating the ‘No Bite Is Right’ message. Awareness that preventative products against ticks are available, is crucial to ensure they are giving their pets the best chance of protection against tick bites and helping to reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases.”
‘No Bite Is Right’ is part of Bayer Animal Health’s wider ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’ parasite protection initiative. A series of campaign roadshows for pet owners will be taking place this year at the Ayr, Devon and New Forest County Shows. Find out how to get tickets to the shows and if your pet and family could be at risk from ticks by following the conversation on www.facebook.com/jungleforpets.
*OnePoll survey of 4,000 UK dog and cat owners, conducted January 2016
**Public Health England factsheet, National Archives: webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140714084352/http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317138937172
***Public Health England Signs & Symptoms factsheet: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/463701/LymeDisease_SignsAndSymptoms.pdf
****Opinion Matters, November 2014, 4955 Dog and/or Cat Owners