How best to protect your dog from ticks

By Gemma Hopkins on 20 December 2016

Finding a tick buried into your dog’s skin is not very pleasant at all.  Besides causing a possible skin reaction they can transmit really nasty diseases some of which can be life-threatening. Lyme disease is one such disease. Transmitted by the most common ticks in the UK, the sheep and hedgehog tick, this disease can affect both dogs and humans.

Worryingly other tick species appear to be expanding their range across Europe, due to climate change and increased dog travel, bringing other disease threats. Earlier this year Babesiosis that was reported in five dogs from Harlow, Essex. This is a deadly disease is transmitted by the Marsh tick.

Mercifully there are a number of things you can do to help protect your dog from ticks with simple treatment, it’s possible to help keep your four-legged friend safe and happy all year round.

Know your enemy

Ticks belong to the same family as mites and spiders. They are tiny arachnids that tightly lock on to your dog’s skin and feast on their blood. They start off really small, often difficult to see, but over time they can gorge themselves on your pet’s blood until they are 100 times bigger! At that stage they are obvious and, by all accounts, repulsive.

There are many different types of ticks to be found and they are capable of transmitting different diseases.  Some of the more exotic species which are normally found abroad have now been found in the UK and this was the case in the news recently – where these ticks transmitted a potentially deadly disease to dogs in Essex.

Signs your dog may have been bitten include irritation to the skin around the area of the bite, itchiness, loss of appetite and lethargy. These can occur sometime after the tick has gone.

Here are four ways to protect your pooch from these most unwanted of lodgers.

 

1. Take car in tick territory

Though they can be found all year around, ticks are most active between the end of spring and the beginning of autumn – usually when the weather is warm and wet – and unfortunately also the prime time for exploring the great outdoors with your four-legged friend. Now, there’s no reason to give up on your outdoor adventures. But beware that ticks love hanging around in bushes, overgrown grassy areas, scrubby woodland, moorland, marshland and, well, all the areas your pooch loves to explore. Try and stick to the path where possible and make sure you check for ticks the moment you get home.

2. Fetch the brush

You’ve just returned from a lovely walk and your dog is a heap of contentment. This is now the ideal time to have a good look and feel around for little lumps and don’t leave an inch of skin un-investigated. Ticks prefer to stay close to the head, neck, ears and paws, usually where the coat is thinnest but can take residence anywhere. So don’t forget to check those hard-to-reach areas. (Best combined with a good tummy rub.)

3. Terminate the ticks

What do you do if you find a tick? Don’t panic. They are easy to remove, but you do need the right equipment and do it properly. Don’t simply yank it off as you may increase the likelihood of infection because you will leave the tick’s head behind as it’s so strongly buried. Don’t use the urban myths of drowning it in your best whisky, use a proper tick removal tool – they are cheap, easy and very effective.  Carefully slot the tool under the tick’s head and gently twist the tool until the tick lets go of the skin. Only when it’s free from your pet can you crush that creepy tick.

4. Get year-round tick protection from your vet

Ticks can be a constant worry and checking for them day in, day out as you should is a little frustrating and also worrying, since you may miss one. But if you ask your vet for preventative treatments that work consistently throughout the course, they will be able to prescribe accordingly.  There are many different products out there and not all protect against the various types of ticks we find, so make sure you get one that covers the most prevalent ticks in your area and then go on your walks with peace of mind.

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GEMMA HOPKINS BVETMED, CERTVC, MRCVS, RCVS ADVANCED PRACTITIONER IN VETERINARY CARDIOLOGY


Gemma holds an RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Cardiology and continues to work part time in practice to remain up to date and continue her interest in cardiology.

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