Summer is in full force and unfortunately this means so is the UK’s tick population, with numbers peaking between late spring and autumn.
Ticks are blood-sucking parasites which latch themselves onto a person or animal and grow in size over several days, before dropping off. The problem is these little critters aren’t just unpleasant – they can also be potentially dangerous.
Ticks carry and transmit Lyme disease, or borreliosis, which is a debilitating bacterial illness which can affect both people and their pets. Only a small proportion of ticks carry this disease but confirmed cases are increasing so it’s important to be vigilant when you’re out and about with your pooch.
To help you do this, PDSA has put together a guide on preventing tick bites, and tips on what to do if you or your dog does get bitten by a tick. Being able to detect a tick on your pet is essential as there may be a long delay before your pet develops the disease, as the bacteria can flare up months or even years after being caught.
• Speak to your vet about prevention – as some flea treatments can also kill ticks.
• Ticks are often found in wooded and moorland areas, especially in long grass. If Lyme disease is known to be a problem where you live, avoid letting your dog wander in deep undergrowth or grass, stick to paths. Always wear long trousers tucked into socks and long sleeves to help protect yourself when walking in these areas too.
• After walking your dog, always check for ticks. They can’t fly or jump, but they attach themselves to the skin of people or animals as they brush against them. Tick bites don’t hurt so they aren’t always noticed. The most common areas for ticks on pets are the head, ears, legs and underside.
• Hedgehogs and foxes are common tick carriers, meaning pets in urban areas with high fox populations are also at risk.
• A small percentage of dogs that have been bitten by a tick will develop Lyme disease. It can cause a rash, a raised temperature, lack of energy, lameness, due to joint inflammation and swollen lymph nodes.
• When they first attach, a tick may be the size of a small pinhead but, as they suck blood, they can grow to the size of a match head and may look like a bluish-grey, pink or purple lump.
• If you do spot a tick, on yourself or your pet, it must be removed properly as soon as possible. It is best to get advice from a vet before trying to remove a tick from your pet, as it’s easy to remove the body of the tick but the mouth can be left in the skin. If the tick isn’t properly removed it can cause an abscess or infection.
• Special tick tweezers are available to buy, but need to be used carefully, so speak to your vet or suitably qualified person for guidance before attempting to remove ticks with tweezers.
• Don’t crush or squeeze the tick’s body and don’t try and destroy the tick with a lighted match. Don’t put Vaseline on the tick as it may drop off but can still be alive to bite another victim
• The sooner you remove the tick the better – the risk of spreading disease increases the longer the tick is attached. Remember that Lyme disease is spread by infected ticks not from pet to person.
For further information, download PDSA’s leaflet Fleas and Ticks for free at www.pdsa.org.uk/leaflets.