Riparian forest ticks, also known as winter ticks, occur almost all year round and are considered to be more aggressive than other types of ticks: They not only hang passively on a blade of grass, but actively look for a host. Most of them are dogs. And it is precisely for them that these ticks are particularly dangerous.
The alluvial forest tick is so dangerous for dogs because it can transmit the infectious disease (dog malaria). In this disease, the dog’s red blood cells are destroyed, which leads to anemia and can be life-threatening for the dog.
The alluvial forest tick is a relatively unknown type of tick that is currently spreading in Germany.
The alluvial forest tick prefers moist areas. It occurs mainly in southwest Germany. Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, and the Freiburg area are currently the most affected by the parasites, as Dieter Barutzki, veterinarian for parasitology and head of the Freiburg veterinary laboratory, explains according to the SWR.
In southwest Germany there is “such a high number of positive cases this year that we have not seen for a long time – perhaps even like never before,” says the specialist veterinarian. The reasons for this are climate change, the entry of infected dogs from abroad and the proximity to France.
The alluvial forest tick can also be found in other areas, e.g. around Berlin, Brandenburg, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Magdeburg and Munich.
However, there is not evidence for every distribution area that the ticks there also carry the causative agent of dog malaria, as the Friedrich-Löffler-Institut explains. Confirmed cases of alluvial forest ticks carrying Babesia are so far only available for Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Baden-Württemberg and Berlin.
The alluvial forest tick, however, continues to spread. Climate change is seen as the main reason for this.
The alluvial forest tick occurs in many different regions of Germany. © greenpapillon-stock.adobe.com
Some of the symptoms of babesiosis include:
At the latest when your dog shows one of these symptoms, you should urgently consult a veterinarian. Now every second can count!
If you remove an alluvial forest tick from your dog, it is advisable to take him to the vet right away, even if he is not (yet) showing any symptoms.
The alluvial forest tick is slightly larger than the common wood tick (most common type of tick in Germany). Without blood it can grow to about 5 mm, when fully sucked it can grow to 16 mm. You can recognize them by their conspicuous pattern:
The alluvial forest tick. © Rucksackzio-stock.adobe.com
If a dog becomes infected with babesiosis by a tick, it can have dire consequences. On the one hand, there is the acute danger to life, which can only be prevented by the quick action of a veterinarian. But even if this is overcome, there can be long-term effects in the dog, for example kidney problems or impairment of the musculoskeletal system. Dogs often take several months to recover from anemia and even then are often not quite the old man.
Take appropriate precautions to prevent your dog from being bitten by a riparian forest tick. You can protect your dog from tick infestation with spot-on preparations, tick sprays, chewable tablets or special collars. Alternative, natural means of tick repellent are also an option, but they often do not provide sufficient security: it often happens that dogs are bitten by ticks despite such means.
The alluvial forest tick can also be dangerous to other animals such as cats. But they are not as prone to babesiosis as dogs. But be careful: if you want to protect your cat from ticks, you must pay attention to the ingredients of the tick protection. Often, agents containing permethrin are used for this. They are well tolerated by dogs, but they can lead to poisoning in cats, as the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety explains.
Man is not susceptible to babesiosis. However, alluvial forest ticks can also transmit other bacteria (e.g. rickettsiae, the cause of typhus) as well as TBE viruses. But humans are not the “main target” of the tick: it prefers dogs as hosts.