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The passive surveillance of ticks using companion animal electronic health records

  • J. S. P. TULLOCH (a1), L. MCGINLEY (a1), F. SÁNCHEZ-VIZCAÍNO (a1) (a2), J. M. MEDLOCK (a1) (a3) (a4) and A. D. RADFORD (a1) (a5)...


Ticks represent a large global reservoir of zoonotic disease. Current surveillance systems can be time and labour intensive. We propose that the passive surveillance of companion animal electronic health records (EHRs) could provide a novel methodology for describing temporal and spatial tick activity. A total of 16 58 857 EHRs were collected over a 2-year period (31 March 2014 and 29 May 2016) from companion animals attending a large sentinel network of 192 veterinary clinics across Great Britain (the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network – SAVSNET). In total, 2180 EHRs were identified where a tick was recorded on an animal. The relative risk of dogs presenting with a tick compared with cats was 0·73 (95% confidence intervals 0·67–0·80). The highest number of tick records were in the south central regions of England. The presence of ticks showed marked seasonality with summer peaks, and a secondary smaller peak in autumn for cats; ticks were still being found throughout most of Great Britain during the winter. This suggests that passive surveillance of companion animal EHRs can describe tick activity temporally and spatially in a large cohort of veterinary clinics across Great Britain. These results and methodology could help inform veterinary and public health messages as well as increase awareness of ticks and tick-borne diseases in the general population.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: J. S. P. Tulloch, NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK. (Email:


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