To help protect you and your pooch as you head out and about this summer, Gillian Rich, our Community Vet Clinic Practice Manager, has put together some helpful advice on tick-bite prevention.
Ticks tend to be found in woodland, grassland and heath areas, and are more likely in areas with sheep or deer. However, they can also be found in your garden if you live in an area with lots of wildlife. They don’t jump, but drop onto animals or humans brushing past long grass, bushes and low-hanging trees. Although ticks can live all year round, they are in full force during the warmer months, which is also when more people are out walking with their pets.
Ticks are found on dogs surprisingly often; in fact, the Big Tick Project in 2016 analysed data and samples collected by vet practices across the UK and found almost a third of dogs checked at random during a visit to a vet were carrying a tick.
The best way to stop your dog getting ill from a tick bite is to try and prevent it happening in the first place. There are a variety of tick prevention products available, and your vet will be able to advise you on the most appropriate one for your dog. You will find that the recommended medicines are usually used for treating other parasites at the same time, such as worms and fleas. Your vet may recommend a tablet or a spot-on, depending on your dog’s lifestyle – a spot-on treatment for a dog that goes for a daily swim might not be ideal!
You can protect yourself from tick bites by ensuring that you are well covered when walking in areas where there could be ticks: wear long-sleeved tops and tuck trousers into socks. It is also a good idea to use insect repellent and check your clothes for ticks regularly. If you do find a tick on your clothes, you should brush it off. However, if you think you may have been bitten by a tick, seek advice from your doctor as soon as possible.
“The best way to stop your dog getting ill from a tick bite is to try and prevent it happening in the first place.”
Check your dog regularly for ticks and immediately after walking them in areas where ticks can be prolific. You can do this by running your hands all over your dog’s coat. A tick will feel like a small bump and it will be buried deep in the fur, attached to your dog’s skin. Ticks vary in size from about 1mm to 1cm long and they will either be black or white: a black tick is busy starting its feed, a white one will be engorged with blood.
Ticks must be removed by ‘unscrewing’, using a special tick-removal device available from your vet or a pet-supply shop. It is important to unscrew the tick so that its head is not left in the skin. If you think the head has been left in, seek advice from your vet.
Ticks can carry a number of very serious diseases that can put your pet’s health in danger, including babesiosis and Lyme disease. Although babesiosis is very rare in the UK, some cases have been diagnosed recently. Symptoms may include depression, pale gums, fever and a swollen abdomen. Lyme disease symptoms may include loss of appetite, fever, swollen painful joints, and lameness.
If your dog begins showing symptoms that you believe may be caused by a tick bite, please seek veterinary advice immediately.
If a human gets bitten by a tick, the same advice applies regarding removal. Again, seek advice from your doctor if you think you may have been bitten as some diseases carried by ticks (such as Lyme disease) can be harmful to humans too.
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