The reported number of cases of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, is thought to have increased in the UK over the past decade, but consistent surveillance data are lacking. Here the prevalence of B. burgdorferi in ticks attached to pet dogs was examined – using them as sentinels for human disease risk. Dogs give a good indication of the exposure of their human owners to infected ticks, since they largely share the same environment and visit the same outdoor areas. PCR was used to test 739 tick samples collected from 3534 dogs selected at random as they visited veterinary practices over a period of six months. Overall, the prevalence of infected ticks on all dogs was 0.5% giving an estimated 481 infected ticks per 100,000 dogs. The data suggest that the prevalence of Borrelia in the UK tick population is considerably higher than most recent estimates indicate.

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