Tick habitats: Crossing off ticks from your dog’s travels

By Gemma Hopkins on 04 January 2017

Ticks are big news and ticks are bad news. No mere itch-bringer, the vast majority of ticks go unnoticed by your pal. However, the tick is a nasty parasite that can transmit a variety of diseases – of which Lyme disease is the most well known. Others exist but are rarer, but recently a real nasty one – canine babesiosis – hit the headlines in Essex. The message is simple: avoid and prevent ticks where possible and reduce the risk of these horrid diseases as they can be truly life-threatening. Find out how to avoid this harmful freeloader below.

When are dogs vulnerable?

Ticks are most active in the spring and autumn when it’s warm and wet. They favour temperatures between 10oC and 25oC, with a high humidity. They’re not fans of extreme heat or cold, and thrive in a moist and humid environment. As such, a walkie shortly following a rainfall during a balmy autumn dusk might sound idyllic, but it’s also when your wag-tailed chum has a good chance of bumping into these horrible blood seekers. However, don’t think that just because the sun’s got his hat on that ticks won’t be around – they’re a year-round problem, especially with warmer weather and mild winters which suits them down to the ground.


Where do ticks live?

They love it warm and moist, so usually anywhere that has those qualities – vegetative woodland, bushes, gorse and shrubs, moorland as well as grassy areas that are overgrown and unkempt. Unfortunately, these types of areas are great to explore and are a beacon to the natural curiosity of your dog.

Ticks climb up long grass and wait for an animal to brush past.  This is the perfect height for your dog’s inquisitive head to brush up against, so keeping your pooch to a well-worn path may be an idea.

Yet ticks are not just confined to the wilder parts of the countryside. Surveys show that dogs can pick them up on local walks as well.  If enough wild animals come into suburban areas, they can leave ticks behind and infestations occur. So if your hound runs around everywhere and sticks his nose in everything, the chances are he will meet a tick at some stage.


Going Abroad?

Many holidays abroad are not complete without Fido accompanied by his up to date Pet Passport and vaccinations.  But there are many more ticks of different species on mainland Europe and unfortunately even more diseases they can transmit.  If you are going, then get advice from your vet as soon as you start planning your holiday.

What next?

As we’ve seen, avoiding these blood suckers is near enough a job in itself.  If you walk in the local manicured park or jog around the local roads, then the chances of picking up a tick is pretty small.  The more your dog explores and the wilder the vegetation the higher the chances of getting these nasty creatures latching onto your dog’s skin. If you find a tick, it’s advisable to remove it promptly and properly and it’s a good reminder to get some preventative treatment onto your best friend

Speak to your local vet who will give you good advice and recommend products to use.  There are lots products out there, many are very good and many not quite so.  Look for one that kills the UK’s key tick species and for the whole duration of the treatment – not all do so.  

If you routinely use a good product then you can stop worrying about ticks and go explore and celebrate the British countryside knowing your best friend is not carrying any freeloaders.

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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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