Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Year-round tick exposure of dogs and cats in Germany and Austria : results from a tick collection study

Background

Ticks and tick-borne diseases play a major role in companion animal health. Additionally, the European tick fauna is changing, for instance due to the spread of Dermacentor reticulatus, displaying a higher likelihood of winter activity than Ixodes ricinus. Therefore, we investigated current tick infestations in dogs and cats in Germany and in parts of Austria and the seasonal infestation risk.

Methods

Overall, 219 veterinary practices were invited to collect ticks from cats and dogs on a monthly basis. Ticks were morphologically identified and female I. ricinus specimens were measured to estimate attachment duration.

Results

In total, 19,514 ticks, 17,789 (91.2%) from Germany and 1506 (7.7%) from Austria, were received between March 2020 and October 2021, with 10,287 specimens (52.7%) detached from dogs, 8005 from cats (41.0%) and 1222 from other species (6.3%). In Germany, the most common tick species collected from dogs were I. ricinus (78.0%) and D. reticulatus (18.8%), while cats mainly harboured I. ricinus (91.3%) and I. hexagonus (5.5%) and only few D. reticulatus (0.6%). In Austria, collected I. ricinus reached similar proportions in dogs (90.4%) and cats (95.3%), followed by D. reticulatus in both dogs (5.2%) and cats (1.5%), with I. hexagonus (0.9%) collected only marginally from cats. The average infestation intensity amounted to 1.62 ticks/dog and 1.88 ticks/cat. The single to multiple infestation ratio was 79.1% to 20.9% in dogs and 69.0% to 31.0% in cats, with cats being significantly more often multiple infested than dogs, while the proportion of mixed-species infestations was 2.0% for both dogs and cats. The average attachment duration of female I. ricinus specimens amounted to 78.76 h for dogs and 82.73 h for cats. Furthermore, year-round tick exposure was confirmed, with 108 D. reticulatus and 70 I. ricinus received on average per month during December 2020 to February 2021.

Conclusions

The study shows a year-round tick infestation risk, with activity of both D. reticulatus and I. ricinus during winter, and confirms the widespread occurrence of D. reticulatus in Germany. Additionally, long average attachment durations and frequent multiple infestations underline the need for adequate year-round tick control, even during the winter months.

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