Ever had to remove a tick from your dog? *shudders* It’s not as bad as you’d think! With your four-legged friend inevitably spending lots of time outside, it’s highly likely that you’ll have to face the music at some point.
These intrepid little bugs can pose some serious risks to both you and your dog if left untreated, so forewarned is forearmed. Here’s a guide to all you need to know about ticks on dogs, from how to spot ticks, how to remove ticks from your dog’s fur and the risk of your dog contracting Lyme disease.
What Exactly Are Ticks, Anyway?
Ticks are blood-sucking, spider-like parasites. They like grassy, brushy, heath and woodland areas, so if you spend time camping, gardening or walking, expect to come across them.
They can also be found where wildlife, such as deer or sheep, roam and feed on mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. They’re most prevalent between spring and autumn, but active throughout the year.
Why Should We Be Wary Of Ticks?
Ticks are very good at passing on infections from one animal to another. They feed by biting an animal and feasting on its blood. This may take several days. Once they’ve had enough, they drop off. Ticks transmit microbes that cause diseases, such as Lyme disease and babesiosis.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection. If your dog has Lyme disease, you may notice they become depressed and lose their appetite. Other symptoms include fever, lameness, swollen and painful joints, and swollen lymph nodes.
If you think your pet has Lyme disease, contact your vet. They can perform tests and start treatment with antibiotics.
What Is Babesiosis?
Babesiosis is extremely rare in the UK. The tick that spreads it is so far only found in southern England and on the continent. The first cases of dogs being treated for the disease, caused by the bacterium babesia, were reported in March 2016, when a dog died after contracting the disease in Harlow, Essex.
Babesiosis can be spread by tick bites. The incubation period is about two weeks, but some pets aren’t diagnosed with the disease for months or even years after transmission.
If your dog is suffering from babesiosis, you may notice that they’re depressed, have pale gums, a swollen abdomen and a fever. They may also lose their appetite and their skin may become yellowish.
If you notice any of these symptoms after walking your dog in a tick-infested area, contact your vet and tell them your dog may have been bitten by a tick.
Can I Catch A Disease From A Tick?
People can catch Lyme disease from ticks, just as dogs can. Symptoms of Lyme disease include a circular rash, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. Left untreated, the disease can develop into conditions such as viral-like meningitis, facial palsy, arthritis and nerve damage.
If you're concerned that you may have been bitten by a tick, consult your doctor as quickly as possible.
What Do Ticks Look Like?
Ticks vary in length between 1mm (the size of a sesame seed) and 1cm (the size of a coffee bean), depending on their age. They look like tiny spiders with a reddish or dark-brown egg-shaped body.
This body becomes larger and darker as it fills with blood. Some are so small that they’re easy to miss, so if in doubt, have a really close look and carefully feel through your dog’s fur.
How Does My Dog Get Ticks?
Your dog is more susceptible to ticks than other pets because they’re always exploring and dashing off into the long grass after intriguing scents.
Ticks tend to wait for potential hosts on the tops of grasses and shrubs. They sit on their back legs, stretching out their front legs and climb or drop on to your dog’s coat when they brush past.
Short of keeping your dog on a lead and sticking to well-trodden paths, there’s not much you can do to prevent your dog from having fun! To keep yourself safe, tuck your top into your trousers and your trousers into your socks.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Ticks?
If you and your pup spend lots of time outside, regularly check them for ticks. Run your hands over your dog’s body and through their fur when you get back from a walk to check for any lumps or bumps.
A tick will feel like a small bump on your pet’s skin. They tend to attach themselves to areas around a dog’s head, neck, ears and feet, but it’s a good idea to monitor around their eyes, under their front legs, between their back legs, between their toes and around their tail.
And yes, your dog can transfer ticks to you. If you allow your furry friend up on to furniture, they can easily drop a tick there. Do check your pup’s fur before cuddling up on the sofa or bed.
How Do I Safely Remove A Tick From My Dog?
Ticks carry diseases, so it’s important to remove any that attach themselves to your dog as soon as possible. Rapid removal lessens the risk of disease.
Removing ticks can be tricky, as you need to be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body, or allow its head to get stuck inside your dog. Squeezing a tick’s body can cause it to expel blood back into your dog, increasing the risk of infection.
Pet shops sell handy tick-removal devices to make this easier or you can use fine-tipped tweezers. Ask your vet for advice.
How To Remove An Embedded Tick: Dos And Don’ts
… take a deep breath!
… use fine-tipped tweezers.
… grip the tick as close to the skin as possible.
… steadily pull the tick up and out.
… swab the bite with alcohol.
… squeeze the tick.
How Do I Protect My Dog Against Ticks?
If you live in an area with ticks, it’s a good idea to use a tick treatment that will either repel or kill them if they attach. Spot-on treatments, tablets and collars are available.
Consult your vet about which is most suitable for your pet. Read the instructions very carefully as some treatments are for dogs only and can be very dangerous to cats and even kill them.
Although it’s hard for your dog to completely avoid ticks, prevention and regular checks will help. Now you know all about ticks and how to remove them, you can confidently take your pup on regular walks in the countryside. Discover some of our most dog-friendly and scenic countryside walks.