Checking your pets for ticks
Ticks are tiny blood sucking parasites, related to mites and spiders that can infect us and your pet with disease. They thrive in the warm, humid conditions that the weather brings at this time of year, through to the Autumn. Although wildlife, birds and farm animals are their main hosts, horses, humans (especially children), cats and dogs are also susceptible to tick bites. With the prevalence of ticks on the rise here in the UK, tick bites and the diseases they carry are expected to become more common.
One of the nastier diseases that ticks can carry is Lyme disease which can have long term implications for our health and the health of our pets. May is Lyme disease awareness month and being on the lookout for these critters and being vigilant for symptoms of the disease is paramount to catch the disease in the early stages for effective treatment.
CHECKING YOUR PET FOR TICKS
Ticks tend to live long vegetation such as woodland and grassland. They cannot jump but instead crawl along the ground and up onto long grass and plants, clinging in wait to be brushed past by an animal or human to attach themselves onto. Once they grasp onto a host, they bite into the skin and feed off the hosts blood for a few days before dropping off.
Dogs are more likely to be infected by ticks and Lyme disease than cats, perhaps this is because dogs tend to travel further from their immediate home. Regular grooming can help us to spot ticks more easily to deal with them quickly so getting into a good grooming routine can really help to keep on top of your pet’s health.
The Masterclip Showmate II trimmer - trimming the hair between the pads
WHAT DO TICKS LOOK LIKE?
There are around 20 species of ticks in the UK. They vary in colour from red-brown to grey and black and are around 1mm to 1cm long. A tick bite is not usually painful, so you are unlikely to notice that your pet has been bitten, which is why it’s especially important to check your pet’s skin after a walk-through woodland or through tall grass. When attached to the skin they can look like a small scar, skin tag or coffee bean and can often get overlooked. Getting familiar with what is normal fr your cat or dog’s skin will help you notice if they pick up an unwanted invader.
Ticks can attach anywhere on the body so combing through your pet’s coat and running your hands over their skin will help to look and feel for them. It also helps to familiarise yourself with your pet’s normal lumps and bumps. A fine-toothed comb such as a flea comb can even pick out ticks that have not yet attached to the skin and remove them from the coat. Take the time to check the groin, under the tail, under the collar and around the paws and ears too. Ticks can even attach to your dog between the toes so clipping excess fur in this area using a trimmer or toe blade will help you to spot them. Maintaining your dog’s coat with regular clipping will also help to manage their fur and spot ticks easier too.
Above - Showmate II dog trimmer, flea comb, combination comb, toe clipper blade and Wildwash bug repellent available from Masterclip
HOW TO REMOVE A TICK FROM YOUR PET
- If you find a tick on your pet, it needs to be removed as soon as possible.
- Don’t try and kill the tick before removal and don’t apply any products over the area.
- When a tick bites, the head of the tick becomes buried into the skin so it’s best to remove the complete tick without detaching the head, where infection may set in.
- Use fine tweezers or a specialist tick removal tool to gently grip the tick without squeezing. (Squeezing may regurgitate blood from inside the tick and increase the chance of your pet picking up a disease.)
- Then pull back very gently to release the head of the tick from the skin (Or gently twist with a specialist tick tool - your vet can show you how.) Dispose of the tick. If you’re unsure of the process to remove a tick, get your vet to remove it for you.
- Clean the area and if possible bath and shampoo your pet to wash off any ticks that may be left crawling in the fur. Ticks that have not yet attached themselves to the skin could be a risk to attach to other pets or family members.
- Monitor your pet closely for a number of days. Look out for symptoms of lethargy, swollen or painful joints, lameness, fever, loss of appetite and depression as these could be signs of Lyme disease.
- See your vet if you are worried or if your pet shows any of these symptoms and let them know about the tick bite. Caught early, Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
PREVENTING TICK BITES
There are various medications such as spot on treatments and tablets from your vet that can be given to your dog or cat that will repel or kill ticks if they bite them. Be extra careful never to use dog tick treatment on cats as some contain chemicals that are highly toxic to cats and can be fatal.
Our Wildwash flea and bug spray is an all-natural bug repellent and is suitable for dogs and horses (but not cats) that can be applied freely to the coat to deter flies, fleas, mites, ticks and mosquitos. This lovely smelling repellent spray is made without any harsh chemicals and really works! It’s eco-friendly and cruelty free too.
If you are travelling outside of the UK and taking your pet with you, discuss parasite treatments with your vet to keep them covered from ticks and other pests such as sandflies and heartworms.