Background: Recent changes in the distribution of tick vectors and the incidence of tick-borne disease, driven variously by factors such as climate change, habitat modification, increasing host abundance and the increased movement of people and animals, highlight the importance of ongoing, active surveillance. This paper documents the results of a large-scale survey of tick abundance on dogs presented to veterinary practices in the UK, using a participatory approach that allows relatively cost- and time-effective extensive data collection.
Methods: Over a period of 16 weeks (April-July 2015), 1094 veterinary practices were recruited to monitor tick attachment to dogs and provided with a tick collection and submission protocol. Recruitment was encouraged through a national publicity and communication initiative. Participating practices were asked to select five dogs at random each week and undertake a thorough, standardized examination of each dog for ticks. The clinical history and any ticks were then sent to the investigators for identification.
Results: A total of 12,000 and 96 dogs were examined and 6555 tick samples from infested dogs were received. Ixodes ricinus (Linnaeus) was identified on 5265 dogs (89 %), Ixodes hexagonus Leach on 577 (9.8 %) and Ixodes canisuga Johnston on 46 (0.8 %). Ten dogs had Dermacentor reticulatus (Fabricius), one had Dermacentor variabilis (Say), three had Haemaphysalis punctata Canesteini & Fanzago and 13 had Rhipicephalus sanguineus Latreille. 640 ticks were too damaged for identification. All the R. sanguineus and the single D. variabilis were on dogs with a recent history of travel outside the UK. The overall prevalence of tick attachment was 30 % (range 28-32 %). The relatively high prevalence recorded is likely to have been inflated by the method of participant recruitment.
Conclusion: The data presented provide a comprehensive spatial understanding of tick distribution and species abundance in the UK against which future changes can be compared. Relative prevalence maps show the highest rates in Scotland and south west England providing a valuable guide to tick-bite risk in the UK.
Keywords: Dermacentor; Ixodes; Relative risk; Rhipicephalus; Surveillance; Tick; Vector.