During the spring and summer season, the chances of your dog finding itself with new unwanted and clingy friends are highly increased. We are of course talking about ticks – those horrid spider-like external parasites who love nothing more than to bury themselves into the skin of the unlucky host to feast on their succulent blood!
There are about 20 species of ticks in the UK and a large proportion of them feed on specific native wildlife. However, the sheep or deer tick (Ixodes Ricinus) feeds on almost any animals including dogs and humans.
Ticks are common across much of the UK habitats and are particularly prolific in the moist condition of woodlands and meadows with tall grass, but you can also find them as close by as your own back garden!
Dangers of Ticks
Tick bites can cause a whole host of problems for both dogs and humans, these include; anaemia, tick paralysis, skin infections and worst of all the potential for the transmission of Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection. Typically, infection occurs after a tick carrying the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi has been attached to a dog for around 2-3 days. Therefore, early detection can make a real difference in terms of prognosis.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of joints
Left untreated, Lyme Disease can be serious, resulting in potential health problems such as kidney disease and in rare cases, diseases of the heart or nervous system.
Ticks generally embed themselves deep into the skin with just their body visible and their head buried. Often, depending on your dog’s coat length and colour, they can be difficult to see. Therefore, the best way to check your dog for ticks is to run your fingers through their fur to feel for any small bumps, paying particular attention to the head, neck, ears and feet. The size of a tick varies from between 1mm and 1cm in length, depending on their age. In addition, you will find that if they have been on your dog for a while the visible part of the body will usually be larger and darker, as the tick’s body becomes filled with blood.
Safely Removing Ticks
Once you identify a tick on your dog, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. This reduces the risk of potential disease. If you’re wondering how to get ticks off dogs, although it may seem quite straightforward, removing ticks from dog can be quite tricky and done incorrectly can have some potential consequences – for example; it is easy to leave some of the tick inside the skin or squeeze the tick’s body, expelling blood back into your dog. Both of these can increase the risk of infection occurring.
Using a twisting motion rather than a straight pull is the best way to remove a tick, using either tweezers or a specially designed tick removal hook. These are widely available at pets stores and in veterinary practices.
If you are concerned about the length of time the tick has been on your dog or you would prefer help with removing it, head to your vets. If you just want help removing the tick, some surgeries offer this service free of charge but do check with your specific veterinary practice.
The best way to avoid the difficulties associated with tick bites is to take as many measures as you can to prevent the possibility of a tick bite. These actions include:
- Being mindful of the areas that ticks are commonly found in during the peak seasons (spring and summer). For example, keep your dog on the lead when walking through wooded areas and only let them off when in shorter open grassland.
- Use a tick prevention treatment. It is useful to note that some but not all dog flea and worming treatments cover ticks. If in doubt, check with your vet.
- Check your dog over after each walk, feeling for any small bumps under the fur.