People are being warned to check their dogs after a major study found the number of pets carrying potentially dangerous ticks has doubled in a year.
Almost a third of dogs checked at random during visits to the vets were found to be carrying a tick, according to researchers at the University of Bristol.
In the biggest ever study of ticks in dogs across the UK, researchers also found that dogs are as likely to pick up ticks in urban areas as in rural parts.
Ticks carry a range of diseases, which include Lyme disease and potentially fatal canine babesiosis.
Lyme disease has the potential to cause serious health problems, such as meningitis and heart failure, while in the most serious cases it can be fatal.
dogs examined during the last year
of dogs found to be carrying a tick
of the dogs with ticks were found to host Ixodes ricinus- principal carrier of Lyme Disease
Chris Packham, zoologist and broadcaster, checks his dogs regularly and has championed the project. He says the findings are "shocking".
I would say that this is a tremendously significant project. It's the largest of its kind ever conducted in the UK and it has been extensive. It was well supported by vets and dog owners too and the data has been rigorously analysed by the University of Bristol.
Researchers also found that ticks are present across many parts of the UK.
The South West was among the highest risk areas, along with Scotland and East Anglia.
However, ticks can be as prevalent in urban areas as in rural areas, researchers said.
The work that we have carried out shows that ticks are extremely widely dispersed. The records that we have got appear to show that we have had an increase in tick numbers right across the country
Professor Wall added that what experts are primary concerned with now are the diseases ticks carry.