Cavapoo And Cockapoo Designer Dog Breeds At High Risk Of Tick Infestation, Study Finds

FeaturesWagging Tales

The RVC’s VetCompass Programme reveals the dog breeds at most and least risk of tick infestation to help prevention and support canine welfare.

New research from the RVC has revealed that designer cross breeds, including Cavapoo, Cockapoo, Goldendoodle and Cavachons have higher risk of becoming infested by ticks due to their Poodle parentage. The study scored Standard Poodles as the second highest breed at risk of tick infestation – suggesting the curly coats of these dogs are simply too inviting for ticks to refuse to attach themselves. These findings aim to help owners, breeders and vets better understand why certain dogs are more at risk, what to look out for and how to best prevent tick infestation in dogs.

In recent years, owners have fallen in love with the concept of ‘designer dog breeds’ that result from deliberate crossing between established pure breeds and combining their names. For example, a Labrador Retriever crossed with a Poodle is known as a Labradoodle. While many of the new designer crossbreeds include Poodle heritage, often due to perceptions that their non-shedding coats make them less allergenic, this new study highlights the heightened risk of tick infestation as a drawback to owning dogs with these curly poodle-type coats.

The RVC’s VetCompass study examined a random sample of anonymised veterinary health records from more than 900,000 dogs in the UK. Over a five-year period, almost 2,000 tick infestation cases were identified. These results show that ticks are a common parasite in dogs, with 2% (one in every 50 dogs) diagnosed with at least one tick infestation over the five-year study period.

The team explored a list of possible risk factors to understand what makes some types of dogs more prone to tick infestation than others. The factors investigated included characteristics such as the ear carriage, haircoat, skull shape, and bodyweight as well as demographic criteria spanning breed, breed purity, Kennel Club recognised breeds and groups, age, sex and more.

The study found that while the new designer breeds – increasingly popular among pet owners – had a higher risk of tick infestation, some longer established breeds were also at high risk, such as the Cairn Terrier, Standard Poodle, Parson Russell Terrier, Golden Retriever and Miniature Schnauzer. In comparison, the breeds with the lowest odds included the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, Chihuahua and English Bulldog.

Male dogs had 1.24 times the risk compared to females. Dogs with medium-length coats (x2.20 risk) and those with V-shaped drop or long, floppy ears (x1.23 risk) also had higher risk of tick infestation.

Ticks are parasites that attach to the skin and suck blood from animals and humans for up to a week before dropping off when they are fully fed. They can also transmit several serious diseases. Ticks normally live in woodland and grassland, and areas with lots of wildlife. However, factors such as urbanisation, climate change, increased national and international pet importation, and decreasing boundaries between humans, pets and wildlife, have expanded the geographic distribution of ticks and have increased the likelihood of infestation by ticks and transmission of infectious diseases that ticks can carry. Despite the human and canine health risks from tick infestation, until now, few studies had explored the frequency and risk factors for tick infestation in dogs in the UK.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor of Companion Animal Epidemiology at RVC, and lead author of the study, said:

“There is no single perfect dog breed so it is critical that we fully understand the strengths and weaknesses for the breed we choose to bring into our own family. Owners of dogs that are either Poodle or have Poodle heritage can now be aware of the need to routinely check their dogs for ticks and to perhaps ensure the coats of these dogs are kept short.”

Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeding Services Executive at The Kennel Club, added:

“Ticks aren’t just pests that feast on your dog and cause them to itch; they can also be carriers of serious diseases. They can be dangerous for any age of dog and indeed any breed – although as this paper shows some dogs can be more susceptible to picking them up due to their coat – so it’s important owners know what to do if they spot one.

“We hope this research, funded in part by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, will help to increase vigilance amongst owners, and in turn prevent discomfort and the spread of infectious disease in dogs caused by ticks.”

The RVC’s VetCompass programme seeks to provide evidence-based research and guidance for vets and pet owners on a range of topics aimed at improving companion animal health, with more than 140 papers published. The research team for this new study on ticks was made up of academics from the RVC and also included an undergraduate veterinary student, Rinrada Komutrattananon, from the RVC’s BVetMed course.

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