Ticks and Your Dog
Although ticks are less common than fleas as a parasite, they are becoming of increasingly serious importance in these times of climate change and increased movement of pets to and from abroad. As well as causing nasty lumps or infections where they bite your pet, they transmit some very serious (and potentially fatal) diseases, some of which can be transmitted to man. For these reasons, we strongly advise that dogs that are at risk are treated with an effective product to, if possible, PREVENT tick bites, or, at least, kill the ticks effectively if they do bite.
The commonest tick in the UK, Ixodes ricinus, can infest not only its normal hosts (deer, sheep) but also humans, dogs, cats and other mammals. Its life cycle is complicated and involves a number of larval and nymph stages that attach to a host, feed on blood for 3-10 days before dropping off and undergoing a moult to the next stage. Once adult (after moulting from larva to nymph to adult), the female tick attaches to it’s final host, sucks up to 5ml of blood over 10 days or so, then drops off and lays about 2000 eggs. The adult male ticks live on the host for longer in order to mate with the females and take smaller, more frequent blood meals.
Ticks traditionally were a seasonal problem with most bites occurring in the warm, humid months. However, with our winters becoming milder, they are becoming a year-round problem. Dogs are most likely to be exposed to ticks in areas of heathland, moorland and woodland, but they can be found in gardens all over the UK. Generally in the upland areas of the UK, peak numbers occur in spring and autumn, but in woodlands, high numbers of ticks are found throughout the summer.
Finding a Host
Ticks have a unique sensory organ on their front legs, which allows them to locate a passing host. They “hitch a ride” and crawl over the animal to find a suitable site where the hair is thin such as the face, ears or abdomen. Once there, they bite into the skin and secrete a glue to hold them in place, making them very hard to dislodge.
Problems caused by Ticks
Infection at the site of attachment
Pets can sometimes develop an allergic reaction where the tick attaches into the skin. This can cause a lot of itching and self-trauma. Also, if the tick is just pulled off the host, it will leave its mouthparts behind embedded in the skin and this usually results in a nasty infected lump called a granuloma.
Transmission of serious disease
Ticks are a very important vector for the transmission of some very serious, and often, fatal diseases in animals and man. Happily, until recently, the UK has been free of most of these diseases. However, with the increased movement of pets in and out of the UK, along with the warmer climate, these diseases are already being seen in the UK. Most are in dogs that have been abroad, but there have been cases in dogs that have never been out of the UK. These diseases include Babesia, Erlichiosis and Borrelia (Lymes Disease), and they will be of increasing importance over the next few decades.
Just as with fleas, overwhelming infestations can result in serious blood loss. This can be very serious in young or elderly animals.
Control of Ticks
· Regular (daily if possible) physical tick inspections are vital for the early location and removal of ticks that have attached. Do NOT pull the tick with your finger and thumb…. it is vital to use a proper tick removal that removes the mouthparts without squeezing the tick. This prevents squeezing potentially infected blood into the host (ie. you or your pet!). Tick removers are available from our practice.
· Use of a suitable spot-on insecticide, such as Prac-tic will, when repeated monthly, should prevent ticks attaching to your pet, and will certainly kill them within 48 hours if they do attach. This prevents the transmission of infected blood from the tick to your pet. Once dead, any attached ticks can be removed with a tick remover. Prac-tic will not be washed off by swimming or bathing and will confer a full month’s protection. It also will control fleas (but that’s another story!).
Please ask us if you have any further questions about tick or parasite control