One of the country’s leading parasitologists has called for a concerted effort to win the “hearts and minds” of vets and pet owners to combat the growing threat of tick-borne diseases entering the UK.

As part of Tick Awareness Month, Ian Wright has called for a robust, rolling regime to be legally enforced through the Pet Travel Scheme, in which dogs undergo compulsory tick treatment before leaving the country, during travel and on their return.

However, Dr Wright, head of the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites UK and Ireland, said, even if legislation was passed, it would still not be enough.

He said: “The only way tick treatment will be effective is to win hearts and minds. We must convince the public and vets this is really necessary, otherwise they still won’t be committed to enforce it. To have comprehensive, compulsory tick control measures in place is a statement of intent. It shows how seriously we’re taking it in Government, as parasitologists and as vets.  We need to convince people of the importance of tick-borne disease control, so need to highlight the data, demonstrate how it’s spreading, and highlight and advertise how serious some diseases are – not only for the health of pets, but its zoonotic implications as well.”

Tick surveillance

Dr Wright said tick disease risk was “fluid and unpredictable”.

He highlighted tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) as a particular worry, as it is spreading west across Europe with increasing mortality rates.

“We also have to highlight the importance of tick surveillance. No product is 100% effective, so, as vets and official veterinarians, we still need to be checking cats and dogs coming into the country for ticks, and people need to be aware they still need to be checking their pets every 24 hours.”

Lobby MP candidates

MSD Animal Health, which sponsors Tick Awareness Month in conjunction with the Big Tick Project team at the University of Bristol, has also called on the Government to establish a comprehensive tick control programme within the Pet Travel Scheme.

The company is urging vets to get involved by writing to their parliamentary candidates explaining why tick control for dogs before, during and after travel abroad is important.

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