What is the prevalence and risk factors for tick infestation in dog breeds in the UK?

16 May 2024

A new study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice has shed light on the prevalence and risk factors for tick infestation in dogs in the UK, in the largest tick infestation analysis to date.

The research, carried out by Dan O’Neill and colleagues at the RVC, used electronic patient records for 905,554 dogs under primary veterinary care at clinics participating in the VetCompass Programme during 2016.

The clinical notes and treatment data fields were searched for candidate tick infestation cases, using various relevant search terms (e.g. tick, tick*remov*, ixode, rhipic). To be confirmed as a tick infestation, cases required recorded evidence that a veterinary professional or the dog’s owner/caregiver had seen at least one tick attached on the dog’s body. After manual checking of a subset of candidate cases, 1,903 tick infestation cases were identified.

Prevalence for a 1-year period was 0.67% of dogs, for a 3-year period was 1.47% and for a 5-year period, it was 2.03%. Breed was found to be an important risk factor for tick infestation, with designer-crossbreed dogs having increased odds of tick infestation compared with non-designer-crossbred dogs. Sixteen breeds showed increased odds of tick infestation, with the highest odds found in Cairn Terrier, Standard Poodle and Goldendoodle. Six breeds had reduced odds, with the lowest odds found in Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler and Chihuahua.

Other variables associated with higher odds of tick infestation were breeds with medium length coats compared with breeds with short coats; males compared with females; neutered dogs compared with entire dogs; an adult bodyweight of 10 to 25kg compared with under 10kg; and breeds with V-shaped drop and pendulous ear carriage compared with those with erect ear carriage. Finally, odds of tick infestation decreased with increasing age.

Whilst the authors highlight some limitations – the potential for misclassification of disorder and risk factor status and the possibility that some tick infestation cases are missed under primary veterinary care, leading to prevalence values being underestimated – the study is arguably the largest tick infestation analysis to date and avoids many of the issues of sampling biases often found in questionnaire-based studies.

Take home message

These findings provide an evidence base for veterinary professionals to raise awareness of tick vectors and disease risk with dog owners, enabling early detection and removal of ticks and reducing vector-borne transmission disease in dogs. It can also support the development and targeting of more effective prevention and therapeutic protocols.


O’Neill DG et al. (2024) The epidemiology of tick infestation in dog breeds in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice. 1-13, DOI: 10.1111/jsap.13727

Further resources

BSAVA library collection on ticks and tick-borne diseases https://www.bsavalibrary.com/content/ticks-and-tick-borne-diseases