Ticks (ick!) might not be something pet owners want to think about most of the time, but it’s important to know about the risk of disease and infection associated with tick bites, as well as how to help protect your pet from these nasty pests. A scientific study known as The Big Tick Project has recently been published, reporting that of the 12,000+ dogs examined over 16 weeks in spring 2015, almost one third (31%) were carrying a tick. This figure had more than doubled since a similar study the previous year, meaning that ticks are now an increasing risk to your pet’s health.
What is a tick?
Ticks are spider-like insects with a whiteish, egg-shaped body and eight legs. These blood-sucking beasts range in size from around 1mm to 1cm, and can either climb or drop on to your pet’s coat.
Ticks are common in woodland, grassland and heath areas, particularly in areas with large numbers of sheep or deer. They can also be found in your garden if you live in an area with lots of wildlife. However, this isn’t an isolated problem and pet owners in urban areas need to be equally cautious, as a recent survey found ticks in 30% of city parks.
The main tick season is typically between spring and autumn, but these unpleasant pests remain active throughout the year.
What are the risks?
Ticks also transmit microbes that can cause diseases. The Big Tick Project found that 89.2% of the dogs with ticks were infested with the species Ixodes ricinus, which is the principal carrier of Lyme disease and Anaplasma. Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection that can lead to fatal kidney disease. Typical symptoms of Lyme disease in pets include depression, loss of appetite, fever, lameness, swollen and painful joints, and swollen lymph nodes. It is most common in dogs, but can also affect cats. Lyme disease is also a significant risk for humans, so take care when walking your dog in potentially tick-infested areas.
Researchers in The Big Tick Project also identified a number of Dermacentor reticulatus ticks, which can transmit canine babesiosis, a rare but potentially fatal disease in dogs. Dogs suffering from babesiosis may appear depressed and exhibit pale gums, a swollen abdomen or a fever. Their skin may also become yellowish in colour, and they may experience a loss of appetite.
Contact a vet immediately you think your pet may be suffering from either of these diseases, as they can be fatal.
How can I tell if my pet has a tick?
Luckily, ticks are large enough to spot. After returning from a walk, simply run your hands over your dog’s body to check for any bumps. A tick will feel like a small lump on your pet’s skin. Ticks commonly attach themselves to areas around an animal’s head, neck, ear and feet, so pay particular attention to these areas.
How can I remove ticks safely?
If you find ticks on your pet, it is important to remove them as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of disease and infection. Tick removal can be very tricky, as it is important not to allow the tick’s head to get stuck inside your pet. You must also be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body, as this can cause it to expel blood back into your pet, increasing the chance of infection.
The best way to remove a tick is by twisting it off your pet. At zooplus you can find a range of handy tick-removal devices to make this easier and safer.
And what can I do to protect my pet from ticks?
To help keep your pet happy, healthy and tick-free, we recommend a Spot On treatment for dogs or cats. Applied directly onto your pet’s skin, this can offer long-lasting protection from both ticks and fleas for up to four weeks. For easy application, you may also be interested in a practical all-in-one spray to help protect your pet and your home from ticks and fleas.
Other natural parasite repellents available at zooplus include biologically active food supplements that aim to protect your pet from ticks and other pests by strengthening their natural defences. Or why not try natural garlic tablets that give off an unpleasant scent to help keep parasites at bay?
Summer may be almost over, but ticks are still out and about. Make sure to keep your pet protected!