Four dogs have been diagnosed with Babesiosis, a deadly disease transmitted by ticks, in Harlow, Essex.
Although all four survived, two required blood transfusions and there are now concerns the disease may be established in the area. Harlow Council is advising dog owners to avoid walking their dogs on the area of land between Second Avenue and Third Avenue (A1025) and Tendring Road, where all four dogs were walked.
The ticks concerned are extremely rare in Britain and this is the first time that Babesia, the bacterium causing the disease, has been found in ticks in the UK.
Forest Veterinary Centre vet Clive Swainsbury, who treated the dogs, told the BBC, "It's not just Harlow that needs to be concerned, in time it will spread to the rest of the country."
Councillor Mark Wilkinson, Portfolio Holder for Environment, says, “We feel it is appropriate to alert dog owners of a potential issue as it is a popular area with dog walkers.
"Further tests are going to be carried on the land once the weather improves and if necessary further advice will be issued. The Council is also in contact with the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs and is seeking any further advice from them."
Babesiosis is a malaria parasitic disease, which causes the immune system to destroy blood cells. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, weight loss and fast breathing.
It’s important to use anti-tick treatments and check your dog for ticks regularly. However, if any ticks are found in the UK, particularly on recently imported animals, BSAVA recommends they are submitted to the Tick Recording Scheme.