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Pet Care
Created: 
21 June 2022
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191

Got questions about ticks?

From “What is the most effective treatment against ticks?” to “How often do I need to check my dog for ticks?”, we’ve got you covered.

Our team of veterinary experts are here to teach you how to protect your dog against ticks, so you can keep their tail wagging.

Like fleas, ticks are parasites that suck blood from other animals. As they feed, they can pick up blood-borne diseases – which they can then carry from one animal to another and transmit to their offspring. Not every tick bite will make your dog unwell, because not every tick is infected. However, it’s important to know how to protect your dog against ticks because the diseases they spread can be very dangerous.

In the UK, the two most serious tick-borne diseases are canine babesiosis and Lyme disease – both of which affect dogs. Canine babesiosis causes dogs to develop severe anaemia, which can be fatal. Lyme disease can also have serious symptoms in dogs and even cause complications like kidney failure and heart disease.

 

HOW DO DOGS GET TICKS?

It’s very easy for dogs to pick up ticks – in fact, 1 in 3 dogs in the UK are carrying ticks*. Ticks sit on vegetation, waving their forelimbs in the air and waiting to climb onto a host. When your dog walks past, ticks will grab hold of their hair and climb on. Then, they’ll firmly attach themselves to your dog by biting through the skin.

So, if you’ve been wondering “How do dogs get ticks?”, the answer is usually while walking in parks, fields, heaths and woodland. However, your dog could come across ticks in any wooded or grassy areas, including your garden. Ticks are active all year round, but the risk is higher from spring until the end of autumn: this is when the temperature and humidity conditions are most favourable.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE TREATMENT AGAINST TICKS?

To provide your dog with the best protection against ticks, use a product that:

Has been thoroughly tested – Although there are many folk remedies for removing and treating ticks, none have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective. Many of these remedies are not suitable for dogs – such as essential oils, some of which can be very harmful to pets. We recommend only using a tick treatment that has been extensively evaluated, to give you the peace of mind that it will work on your dog and be safe.

 

HOW CAN I CHECK MY DOG FOR TICKS?

Unlike fleas, which can irritate dogs and cause them to scratch and itch, ticks are less likely to change your dog’s behaviour. Although ticks can cause discomfort, a local infection and inflammation, your dog probably won’t feel anything when they’re first bitten, and ticks secrete enzymes while feeding that have an anaesthetic effect.

Ticks can be hard to spot on your dog. They’ll latch on at a furry location where they won’t easily be seen, like between toes, under elbows and around ears. What’s more, ticks are very small: when they first climb on your dog, they are only about the size of a sesame seed. You’re more likely to spot them a few days later, as they can grow up to 200 times after they’ve been feeding.

The best way to check your dog for ticks is with your hands, not your eyes. Carefully comb through your dog’s fur with your fingers, feeling for bumps on their skin. Remember to check your dog’s ears, face, elbows and feet – these are some of the spots ticks like best, as they find them cosiest.

 

HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO CHECK MY DOG FOR TICKS?

The risk of ticks transmitting a disease to your dog increases the longer they remain attached and feeding, so it’s important to kill or remove them as soon as possible. It’s recommended to regularly check your dog for ticks. A good time to do this is when you come back home from a walk, or when you give your dog their daily brush.

It’s still possible to miss ticks on your dog, even if you look for them regularly. That’s why using a tick treatment is so important: it’ll get to work killing ticks before you even notice they’re on your dog.

 

MY DOG HAS A TICK – WHAT SHOULD I DO?

It’s important that you know how to remove a tick on dogs as soon as you see it – and safely. Accidentally leaving the head or mouthpart behind can cause discomfort to your dog, and even an infection in some cases. What’s more, unless you know how to remove a tick on dogs correctly, you may increase the risk of disease transmission. When a tick is stressed, it will spit some of its stomach contents back into the host animal, which could contain infectious agents responsible for tick-borne diseases.

 

Do not try to remove a tick by:

- Using rubbing alcohol, oil, or butter

- Pulling or squeezing the tick

- Freezing or burning the tick

- Using tweezers

 

I removed a tick from my dog – what should I do now?

Once you’ve safely removed a tick from your dog, either wrap it in a tissue and place it in your bin or put it in a sealed food bag in your freezer. Preserving the tick in this way could help your vet with disease identification if your dog later becomes unwell. The species of tick can help to narrow down the possible diseases, and your vet may be able to carry out tests on the tick to discover which it was carrying. If you’d rather dispose of the tick, make a note of its size or take a picture – this can help your vet estimate how long it was feeding on your dog.

Ticks can transmit diseases to humans as well as pets, so always wash your hands after removing them from your dog.

 

HOW CAN I TELL IF MY DOG HAS A TICK-BORNE DISEASE?

Unfortunately, tick-borne diseases can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can vary from dog to dog, and often aren’t specific to a single disease, which means vets may have to rule out other possible causes.

Although Lyme disease often causes a recognisable rash in humans, it can be harder to spot in dogs. The most common clinical signs of Lyme disease in dogs are:

- Fever

- Lameness

- Muscle pain

- Lack of energy

- Loss of appetite

Canine babesiosis can vary from severe to mild or intermittent symptoms, including:

- Fever

- Lack of energy

- Loss of appetite

- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)

- Vomiting

- Pale gums

- Red-coloured urine

- Joint stiffness

Tick-borne diseases can be very serious, so seek advice from your vet if your dog is unwell and has, or has recently had, a tick.

Now you know how to prevent ticks on dogs, you can go have fun with your pet while keeping them protected!

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