Concern is growing about the risks posed to dogs from the parasite known as ‘babesia canis’ (also referred to as the brown dog tick) as experts warn that it is likely to spread across the UK.

According to, two government agencies, the Animal and Plant Health Agency and Public Health England, are now investigating the outbreak which first originated in Harlow in Essex taking the lives of two dogs and affecting a further three who needed a blood transfusion.

Although humans can contract the disease babesiosis, it is rare and the strain which affects dogs caused by Babesia canis is not thought to present a risk to human health, nor fellow animals such as cats.

Talking to K9 Magazine about the outbreak of the parasite which is better known in warmer climates across Europe, Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“It is concerning that infection with Babesia canis has been diagnosed for the first time in the UK in dogs that have not travelled from overseas nor had contact with pets that have travelled – and dog owners will understandably be feeling anxious about the reported cases. Prevention is always better than cure and we’d recommend that owners discuss year-round parasite control, including tick prevention treatments, with their local vet.

“BVA lobbied hard against the relaxing of controls under the EU Pet Travel Scheme, which included removing the requirement for tick treatment to prevent diseases such as babesiosis being introduced into the country, and it is disappointing to see our concerns potentially becoming a reality.”

“Owners should check pets for ticks after walks and if one is found on the body it should be removed completely using a commercially available tick-remover or fine-pointed tweezers, even if they are dead. If owners have any concerns about their dog or suspect any signs such as weakness, pale gums or “coffee-coloured” urine then they should contact their vet immediately.”

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