Dog owners on alert as extremely rare tick-borne disease kills at least one pet
Dog owners are being alerted to a deadly tick-borne disease that has led to the death of at least one dog, with others taking seriously ill.
The outbreak of babesiosis, caused by a parasite carried in the ticks, has recently been traced to a site in the UK.
There have been no reports as yet of any incidence in Ireland but vets are warning dog owners to check their pets for ticks.
One dog has reportedly died in Harlow in Essex and several are in serious condition after contracting the disease.
According to website PetMD.com, owners are advised to do a thorough body check of their dog to find ticks, which are visible to the naked eye but can be drawn to dark, hidden areas of the animal's body such as ears, groin and between the toes.
Signs of ticks include dogs excessively scratching or licking a particular area.
To remove a tick, owners are advised to use tweezers to grip the tick by the head and pull it straight out, and not to twist, burn or apply anything to the skin. To kill the tick once it has been removed, put it in a small amount of alcohol, rather than squash it.
Speaking to the BBC, vet Clive Swainsbury, said the disease could spread through wild animals.
"At present we have a very well-defined area," he said. "The problem in the future is that every female tick will lay a couple of thousand eggs and all those offspring from that disease will also carry the disease.
"As mammals move around they will start spreading the disease. Although you can advise dog walkers not to go there, it's possible that foxes and other animals will transport these ticks."