Animal Friends Blog
Tick season is upon us! While ticks seem pointless, they do provide a big purpose in the ecosystem, providing a meal for a few wild animals but unfortunately, your dog or cat can be a perfect feeding ground for these parasites. Here are the things you need to know about these arachnids and the diseases they carry.
What do ticks look like?
Ticks vary in shape, colour and size but they have a flattened oval shaped body before feeding and a plump, rounded body once fed. When they’re unfed they’re the size of a sesame seed but then grow to the size of a coffee bean when complete engorged with their host’s blood.
When are ticks active?
Ticks are most active from March to October, but you might come across them in the winter months, too. Because ticks are at risk of drying out, they prefer moist and humid environments and live in grass, bushes, shrubs and foliage.
How do ticks get on to your pet?
Ticks will rest on the tips of grasses and shrubs, waiting for a host. When a host brushes past the tick will climb onto them and either attach themselves quickly or go for a wander across their victim, looking for warmer areas or places where the skin is thinner.
How can I tell if my pet has a tick?
Once you come home from a walk with your dog or your cat returns from its nightly adventures it’s a good idea to check them over for ticks. It can be quite hard to find them at first because they’re so small, but if you check every day then you might eventually find a tick feeding on your pet.
Ticks can be found anywhere on your cat or dog’s body, but they particularly like to attach themselves around their:
- Feet (between the toes)
How do you remove a tick from a dog or cat?
The trick to removing a tick is in the method as it’s important to get all of the tick out, head and all.
- Part your pet’s hair so you can see the tick
- Using a tick removal tool, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible
- Twist and lever upwards so that the tick is detached from your pet’s body
- Make sure not to pull or squeeze the tick’s body as this could kill the tick which would release toxins into your pet’s skin
You can also buy a tick removal tool which helps you avoid squeezing the body and simply helps you twist the tick off.
Lyme disease, ticks and pets
Unfortunately, these nasty pests carry diseases that can be transmitted to our pets and result in serious problems. Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease in the UK so it’s important to be able to recognise the signs of the disease.
Symptoms may include:
- Joint pain, lameness or limping (this can shift to different legs, too)
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
- Discomfort or pain
In humans, those who are infected by Lyme disease may find a red “bulls-eye” rash around the bite site but this is not seen frequently in pets. Keep an eye out for any unusual marks, symptoms, or behaviour in your cat or dog as signs might not appear for a few weeks after a bite.
How to prevent Lyme disease
Just like most things, prevention is better than a cure and with no vaccines available to prevent some of the tick-borne diseases then it’s important to learn the best prevention methods.
- Speak to your vet about the tick prevention products. By speaking to your vet you’ll be able to learn which product is both best and safe for your pet, cat or dog.
- Check your pet for ticks every day, especially if they’ve been out and about or just come in from a walk. If you find one, remove it correctly right away.
- Take care of your garden and make sure it doesn’t accidentally become an ideal home for ticks as nightly visitors (like hedgehogs) might pass through carrying ticks which would then drop off and wait for their next victim.
There are other risks and dangers for our cats and dogs at this time of year so it’s down to us to keep our pets as safe as we can. If you would like to identify your local tick threat, then visit the Big Tick Project UK Tick Threat Interactive map.
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