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Collection and prevalence of ticks in cattles and buffaloes from free-range management systems of Islamabad



In recent decades, parasitism has remained one of the major problems of dairy industry in Pakistan. In this context, the most common tick species prevailing is Hyalomma, Boophilus, Haemaphysalis, and Rhipicephalus.


High prevalence was found in cow 20.83% as compared to buffaloes. Over all prevalence of ticks was found as 11.3% whereas no ticks were found from LRS (livestock research station), and Malpur showed higher prevalence (8.67%). Breed wise tick prevalence showed that crossbred cattle was heavily infested (39.53%) while pure bred indigenous cattle was mildly infested (3.03%). Three tick genera found were Hyalomma with high prevalence rate 6.63% and Rhipicephalus and Boophilus with low prevalence rate 1.53% while management system of LRS in Islamabad was found satisfactory with no tick prevalence and rural areas of Islamabad was not satisfactory with 23% of tick prevalence ration. It was concluded from the study that ticks were present in the crossbred cattles of pre-urban areas specially Malpur region of Islamabad with low management system, so there is a need of proper monitoring and management in the pre-urban areas.


Key steps should be taken for good managements regarding large animals while special care must be taken for small animals. Proper spray must be carried out for the removal of pathogenic species.


Arthropods and insects probably have evolved about 600 million years ago and 300 million years earlier than the warm-blooded vertebrates. The ticks have worldwide distribution, and their species diversity is greatest in tropical and subtropical regions. Ixodid ticks are obligatory blood-suckers that they need an animal host to survive and reproduce. Ticks can be a nuisance; their bite can cause irritation and even paralysis, in case of some ticks. Severe infestations on animals can cause anemia, weight loss, and even death due to consumption of large quantities of blood. Ticks and tick-borne diseases affect animal and human health worldwide and are the reason of significant economic losses. They are currently considered to be second vectors of human infectious diseases in the world after mosquitoes (McCosker, 1979). In recent decades, parasitism has remained one of the major problems of dairy industry in Pakistan. In this context, the most common tick species prevailing are Hyalomma, Boophilus, Haemaphysalis, and Rhipicephalus (Durrani & Shakoori, 2009). The two types of losses are important, i.e., direct loss due to anemia and skin/hide damage and indirect loss due to transmission of disease as vector. Ticks are transmitting viral, bacterial, and protozoan pathogens causing diseases like hemorrhagic fever, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, theileriosis, and babesiosis in meat and dairy animals (Rajput, Hu, Chen, Arijo, & Xiao, 2006). In Pakistan during this decade, parasitism is burning issue which causes health problems in domestic animal production, based on climate, water availability, land use, and physiographic parts of Pakistan which offer favorable environmental conditions for ticks, which can infest a variety of hosts and transmit diseases to humans, livestock, and companion animals (Durrani & Shakoori, 2009). Estimation of blood loss varies according to the species under consideration. A single adult female tick may remove 0.5–2.0 ml of blood (Pegram & Chizyuka, 1990). The ticks suck host blood throughout their lengthy attachment phase of 7–14 days, which may be extended depending on the tick species and unique host association (El Hakim, Shahein, Aboelella, & Selim, 2007). Optimal temperature and relative humidity required for growth and the reproduction of ticks is 26–37 °C and 85%, respectively (Aktas, Dumanli, & Angin, 2004; Yakhachali & Hosseine, 2006). About 80% of the world cattle population is infested with ticks (Bowman, Dillwith, & Sauer, 1996). Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimated the global losses of hard tick infestation to be US $ 7.0 billion annually (Harrow, Gration, & Evans, 1991). Tick infestation diminishes quality of skin/hide up to 20–30% (Gharbi, Sassi, Dorchies, & Darghouth, 2006) and causes severe anemia, loss of production, weakness, and immunosuppression in the infected animals (Gwakisa et al., 2001). Ticks are voracious blood suckers; loss of blood for their rapid development impoverishes the hosts. In heavy infestation, cattle must have more feed merely to meet the demands of the parasites; the growth of young animals is retarded, and they may remain thin, weak, and stunted. In dairy cows, milk production is greatly reduced (Barnett, 1961). Economic losses are mainly due to the diseases which ticks transmit (Garcia, 2003), financial losses associated with nagging irritation, and depreciation of the value of the skin and hide (up to 20–30%) are also significant (Biswas, 2003). Ticks show a variety of host-contact patterns during their lifecycles. In one host tick species (e.g., Boophilus microplus), each developmental stage (larva, numph, and adult) feeds upon the same host individual. In others, two or three individuals are used, with the ticks leaving the host when replete to molt. In three host tick species (e.g., Hyalomma anatolicum anatolicum), a different individual is used for each stage in the cycle, i.e., larva, nymph, and adult, and one blood meal is taken on each host (Wakelin, 1984). An integrated control strategy based on the measures of housing in tick proof buildings, slow burning of the wastes near the walls of the animal sheds, separate housing of cattle and buffaloes, quarantine by using acaricides so that they are free from ticks before adding them to the existing herd, pasture spelling and rotational grazing, and manual removal of ticks is recommended for the control of ticks in cattle (Muhammad, Naureen, Saqib, & Faryal, 2008).

Knowing the importance of ticks, this study was conducted with following objectives:

  • To detect fauna of ticks among cattle and buffaloes of Islamabad.

  • To find the prevalence among cattle and buffaloes with respect to species, breed, infestation level, and herd size.

Materials and methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted in peri-urban dairy farms of Islamabad region in September 2015.

Sample collection

The ticks were collected randomly and snowball sampling in the morning and the evening from 96 cattles and 100 buffaloes in peri-urban dairy farms of Islamabad. The ticks were collected systemically using small forceps as per (Muhammad et al., 2008) starting from the head towards the tail direction and placed in a Petri dish. Care was kept in mind to avoid decapitulation and shedding of the legs.

From Petri dishes, ticks were transferred in plastic bottles. Five to seven holes were made in cap of these plastic bottles for proper aeration, and moisture level was maintained by soaking of cotton swab with water inside the bottle (Hayat & Akhtar, 1999). The tick samples were brought to parasitology section of the National Veterinary Laboratories NVL, Islamabad, in clean, dry, and properly labeled plastic bottles (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1
figure 1

Ticks collected in plastic bottles

Categorization of infestation level

Tick infestation level was categorized as suggested by (Muhammad et al., 2008).

  • 1–25 ticks = low infestation

  • 26–50 ticks = moderate infestation

  • > 50 ticks = high infestation

Sample processing

Ticks were boiled in 10% KOH solution in test tube over the flame for cleaning of abdomen and ease of examination. The collected ticks were identified on dissection microscope based on morphology with the help of the keys (Foreyt, 2001.; Solusby, 1982; Urquhart et al., 1996).

Statistical analysis

The data was analyzed using simple descriptive statistics derive from the information about the mean of the infestation level and prevalence percentage of infected animals.

Results and discussion

Species wise tick prevalence in cattle and buffaloes

The prevalence of ticks was higher (20.83%) in cattle as compared to buffaloes (3.00%) as shown in Table 1. The results are near to Soomro et al., 2014 while not relevant with Khan et al., 2013. Tick infestation status was found higher in hot arid areas. TIR in these areas was higher due to the favorable climatic conditions (humidity and temperature). In some parts of the world, there is a possibility to relate the disease incidence to climate change and also a positive association of incidence with mild warm, humid summer, and winter (Bennet, Halling, & Berglund, 2006). The difference might be due to different climatic conditions, small sample size, and season.

Table 1 Area wise prevalence rate

Breed wise tick prevalence in cattle

Breed wise tick prevalence showed that crossbred cattle were heavily infested (39.53%) while pure bred indigenous cattle were mildly infested (3.03%) as shown in Table 2. Low infestation in indigenous cattle is due to immunity acquired over the time while crossbred cattle lacks immunity for ticks.

Table 2 Genera wise prevalence rate

Tick prevalence in cattle and buffaloes

Overall prevalence of ticks was found as 11.3% whereas no ticks were found from LRS farm, and Malpur farm showed higher prevalence (8.67%) as shown in Table 3. The results of the present study are not in accordance with the former studies of (Sajid, Iqbal, Khan, & Muhammad, 2008., Atif, Khan, Iqbal, Ali, & Ullah, 2012, Khan et al., 2013., Soomro et al., 2014) which may be due to the difference of sample size and variation in season.

Table 3 Different animals prevalence rate

Tick genera identified on cattle and buffaloes

Three tick genera found were Hyalomma, Rhipicephalus, and Boophilus in the study as shown in the table. The result of present study is relevant with (Sajid et al., 2008; Atif et al., 2012, Khan et al., 2013, Soomro et al., 2014.)

Management system wise prevalence in cattle and buffaloes

Prevalence of ticks was found 23% from rural areas of Islamabad whereas no ticks were found from LRS farm as shown in Table 4. The difference of tick prevalence between two management systems is due to management practices involved in rearing Table 5.

Table 4 Breed wise prevalence rate
Table 5 Location wise prevalence rate


Ticks were present in peri-urban locality at 11.73%, while LRS animals were free from ticks.

Ticks were more prevalent in cattle as compared to buffaloes.

Low infestation level was more prevalent followed by moderate and high infestation.

Crossbred animals were more infested with ticks as compared to indigenous and other breeds.

Malpur study site animals were heavily infested among all study sites.


Good management practices accounts for tick eradication in large animals.

Regular spray should be carried out on animals and inside crevices of shed.

Owners of small ruminants should take special care of their animals.

Crossbred animals need special attention for tick eradication.



National Veterinary Laboratories


Tick infestation rate


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The authors of manuscript are highly thankful to the staff of Parasitology Section National Veterinaries Laboratories and management of Livestock research station, and owner of sites of studies in Islamabad.


Egyptian German Society for Zoology.

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The authors contributed in different aspects. They help each other in sampling and laboratory work. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zahid Anwar.

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This study consists of animal related to human study. So, this study was ethically approved by the committee of Department of Zoology, Kohat University of Science and Technology Pakistan and Veterinary Research Institute Peshawar, Pakistan.

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Ahmad, Z., Anwar, Z., Adnan, M. et al. Collection and prevalence of ticks in cattles and buffaloes from free-range management systems of Islamabad. JoBAZ 80, 12 (2019).

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