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Ticks and associated pathogens collected from dogs and cats in Belgium

Edwin Claerebout1*, Bertrand Losson2, Christel Cochez3, Stijn Casaert1, Anne-Catherine Dalemans4, Ann De Cat1, Maxime Madder56, Claude Saegerman7, Paul Heyman3 and Laetitia Lempereur7

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Parasitology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium

2 Laboratory of Parasitology and Pathology of Parasitic Diseases, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

3 Research Laboratory for Vector Borne Diseases, Queen Astrid Military Hospital, Brussels, Belgium

4 Bayer Health Care, Animal Health Division, Diegem, Belgium

5 Department of Animal Health Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium

6 Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, Pretoria 0110, South Africa

7 Research Unit of Epidemiology and Risk Analysis Applied to the Veterinary Sciences, University of Liège, Liege, Belgium

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Parasites & Vectors 2013, 6:183  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-183

Published: 19 June 2013



Although Ixodes spp. are the most common ticks in North-Western Europe, recent reports indicated an expanding geographical distribution of Dermacentor reticulatus in Western Europe. Recently, the establishment of a D. reticulatus population in Belgium was described. D. reticulatus is an important vector of canine and equine babesiosis and can transmit several Rickettsia species, Coxiella burnetii and tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), whilst Ixodes spp. are vectors of pathogens causing babesiosis, borreliosis, anaplasmosis, rickettsiosis and TBEV.


A survey was conducted in 2008-2009 to investigate the presence of different tick species and associated pathogens on dogs and cats in Belgium. Ticks were collected from dogs and cats in 75 veterinary practices, selected by stratified randomization. All collected ticks were morphologically determined and analysed for the presence of Babesia spp., Borrelia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Rickettsia DNA.


In total 2373 ticks were collected from 647 dogs and 506 cats. Ixodes ricinus (76.4%) and I. hexagonus (22.6%) were the predominant species. Rhipicephalus sanguineus (0.3%) and D. reticulatus (0.8%) were found in low numbers on dogs only. All dogs infested with R. sanguineus had a recent travel history, but D. reticulatus were collected from a dog without a history of travelling abroad. Of the collected Ixodes ticks, 19.5% were positive for A. phagocytophilum and 10.1% for Borrelia spp. (B. afzelii, B. garinii, B. burgdorferi s.s., B. lusitaniae, B. valaisiana and B. spielmanii). Rickettsia helvetica was found in 14.1% of Ixodes ticks. All Dermacentor ticks were negative for all the investigated pathogens, but one R. sanguineus tick was positive for Rickettsia massiliae.


D. reticulatus was confirmed to be present as an indigenous parasite in Belgium. B. lusitaniae and R. helvetica were detected in ticks in Belgium for the first time.

Ticks; Dermacentor reticulatus; Dogs; Cats; Belgium; Borrelia; Anaplasma; Rickettsia