Background: Increases in the abundance and distribution of ticks and tick borne disease (TBD) within Europe have been reported extensively over the last 10-20 years. Changes in climate, habitat management, economic patterns and changes in the abundance of hosts, particularly deer, may all have influenced this change to varying extents. Increasing abundances of tick populations in urban and peri-urban environments, such as parks, are of particular concern. In these sites, suitable habitat, wildlife hosts, tick populations, people and their pets may be brought into close proximity and hence may provide foci for tick infestation and, ultimately, disease transmission.
Methods: The distribution and abundance of ticks were examined in an intensively used, peri-urban park. First the seasonal and spatial distribution and abundance of ticks in various habitat types were quantified by blanket dragging. Then the pattern of pet dog movement in the park was mapped by attaching GPS recorders to the collars of dogs brought to the park for exercise, allowing their walking routes to be tracked. Information about the dog, its park use and its history of tick attachment were obtained from the dog-owners.
Results: Ticks were found predominantly in woodland, woodland edge and deer park areas and were least abundant in mown grassland. Tick infestation of dogs was a relatively frequent occurrence with, on average, one case of tick attachment reported per year for a dog walked once per week, but for some dogs walked daily, infestation 4-5 times per week was reported. All dogs appeared to be at equal risk, regardless of walk route or duration and infestation was primarily influenced by the frequency of exposure.
Conclusions: In peri-urban green spaces, tick-biting risk for dogs may be high and here was shown to be related primarily to exposure frequency. While tick-biting is of direct veterinary importance for dogs, dogs also represent useful sentinels for human tick-exposure.
- Tick-borne disease