Ticks are small external parasites that attach to your dogs skin and also can attach to us humans! They attach using their small mouth parts. They embed into the skin and feed on the animals’ blood before moving onto another animal; potentially spreading disease between animals. There are different types of ticks depending on the location in the UK, with warmer weather bringing more exotic varieties here and therefore more exotic diseases. They tend to be in higher numbers in Spring and Autumn. They are found more commonly in woodland areas and can transfer from dog to dog by dropping off or climbing.
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Cats can also have ticks, but this tends to be less common. There are many products which aim to treat ticks and they work in various ways. It is important to follow the instructions from your vet on how to apply them.
Diseases spread by ticks
Lyme’s disease is a bacterial infection caused by ticks spreading the infection and in dogs can cause lameness, a high temperature and general lethargy. It is important to note Lyme’s disease can also affect humans. It can be difficult to diagnose the condition and as treatment it requires a course of antibiotics from your vet.
Babesiosis can also be seen, it affects the red blood cells causing weakness, anaemia and a high temperature. It is far more common in Europe and the rest of the world than the UK. Some strains can also affect humans but this is rare.
Ehrlichiosis is far less common, it affects the white blood cells of the body causing signs such as anorexia, weight loss and a high temperature. It is not very common in the UK. But it can be seen on dog’s that have travelled to and from Europe or elsewhere. It can affect humans but is rare.
Diseases that are spread by ticks can be tricky to diagnose, it often involves a full clinical examination by your vet, along with a detailed history from you and a series of blood tests. It is always important to let your vet know if you have recently travelled abroad with your pet.
Can’t I trust the tick product I’ve used?
Yes and no. With most products, ticks may still bite, although they will then die. The modern products will kill ticks in 4-24 hours, and most ticks do not transmit large numbers of bacteria in the first 24-48 hours of feeding. So tick treatments will dramatically reduce the risk of infection. But they do not eliminate it altogether, and so removal of the tick is strongly recommended.
How to remove them
It is important to remove ticks correctly, as you don’t want to squish them – this could potentially squeeze the contents back into your dog and make them unwell. The best way to remove them successfully is using a proper tick remover and these are readily available to buy. It is important to hook underneath the tick and twist them around rather than just pulling as otherwise the mouth parts will be left in and can cause a reaction.
If a tick head is left inside or the tick is left it can cause skin irritation, redness or itching. This area can become infected if the dog starts to scratch or bother with it. If this happens you may require medication for your pet from your veterinary practice. To get a suitable product for your dog to treat ticks it is important to contact your vet as there are many types available to buy and your vet can advise on how to use the product correctly. They can also show you how to remove ticks safely from your pet.
As ticks are becoming more common, it is important to check for them after walks, know how to remove them safely and use an appropriate product, all of which your veterinary practice can advise upon. If you have any concerns regarding ticks on your pet please contact your vet who will be able to help you.