Its tick season so as always, here’s some useful information and hints on how you can prevent them and spot them on your best friend.
Ticks really are vile. They come in at a close second only to mosquitos as they can spread diseases in animals AND humans. The most serious is a bacterium called Lyme disease which affects the muscles and nerves cells. It can leave animals lame and lethargic, and humans with a debilitating lifelong chronic illness. Unfortunately, its very hard to diagnose in dogs so its important to do all you can to prevent them from getting ticks. These horrible little parasites need a host to feed from and that comes in the form of a cat, hedgehog, dog or even you. Ticks are closely related to spiders and can be found loitering in grassy areas like meadows and fields. However, the little devils can be found in woodland and urban areas too so its important to know what to look for when giving your pet the once over after walking in such environments. Ticks come in an assortment of colours but unfed, they are oval, flat and small (imagine a sesame seed with legs). However, they soon balloon once they’ve had a good feed and grow to the shape and size of a coffee bean. They do this thing called ‘questing’, which is where they climb to the top of a blade of grass, waiting for an unsuspecting animal (or human) to brush past enabling it to latch on for their ‘all you can eat’ buffet. There are many safe products on the market to aid in the prevention of ticks; from spot-on’s to sprays and special collars with built in substances that help infiltrate the fatty layers of your pets’ skin, killing ticks when they get a mouthful of the parasitically treated blood. Whichever you chose as your go-to, always follow the manufacturers instructions on how to apply/use.
Ticks can be dangerous for any dog of any age and breed (although long-haired breeds are probably more susceptible to picking them up) so it’s important to know what to do if you spot one.
Importantly, please don’t panic and resist the urge to just pull it straight off. Not only would it be extremely painful for your dog, if pulled out incorrectly, embedded mouth parts can be left behind! Or, if ticks are ‘stressed’ – poked and prodded, burnt with a flame, or, as is commonly done, covered in Vaseline to suffocate them – ticks may regurgitate their bloody meal back into their host along with any disease they’re carrying, thereby increasing the chances of disease transmission. Also, any mouth parts left inside your dog could result in a local tissue reaction, inflammation and infection often requiring antibiotics, or even surgical removal so you may want to speak to your vet about techniques on how to remove them effectively.
To find out more about ticks, how to identify them, prevent or remove them, please contact your vet as a matter of importance for your dog’s welfare and public health too.