A veterinary practice in Biggleswade has joined a research project on a disease affecting dogs and their owners.
Tick bites which can cause serious infections, such as Lyme disease, have been on the rise and experts now want to find out why.
Lyme disease is a serious and debilitating illness that can cause long term health problems in both dogs and people.
Research has shown that the blood-sucking ticks responsible are feeding earlier in the year and for longer, putting dogs and their owners at greater risk.
Biggleswade veterinary practice Medivet is taking action by joining naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham and the University of Bristol in the Big Tick Project.
This new nationwide initiative runs from spring through to autumn, tracking the rise of the tick population in the UK and finding out how many carry disease.
Dog owners can take their pets to Medivet for a tick check and advice about innovations in effective tick control.
Any ticks found on dogs will be collected and sent to the Bristol university laboratories to help advance the knowledge of tick-borne disease, benefiting both veterinary and human medicine.
Chris Packham feels the challenge of keeping dogs and people tick-free has never been greater.
He said: “Research highlighted by the Big Tick Project experts at Bristol university suggests that ticks are a growing problem, especially in areas such as urban parkland, woodland or open country. While I find both ticks and fleas interesting creatures, I don’t want them on my dogs, in my house, or on me.”
He added: “I want the best advice and treatment available and I know I can get this by talking to my vet.”
By taking part, the veterinary practice will help the level of risk to dogs and people in Biggleswade to be identified, compared to the national average. The practices also aim to provide advice to local dog owners on effective tick control.
Ticks are hard to spot when small but can transmit infections as they feed off the blood of their host. Dog owners often see ticks when they have increased in size as a result of their blood meal but by then the damage may have been done.
New advances and treatment innovation means that there are a number of ways that vets can control ticks, including the use of spot-ons (typically applied every four weeks), sprays, collars and oral chewable formulations which can last up to 12 weeks. That means there should be an easy and practical solution for every owner who wants to help protect their dog against ticks.
Dog owners wanting to take part in the Big Tick Project with a tick check for their pets or to find out more about the risks from tick bites can visit www.bigtickproject.co.uk or contact Medivet Biggleswade, 15 Shortmead Street, Biggleswade, SG18 0AT for further information.