Ticks are a troublesome and annoying consequence of taking your dog for a walk during the warmer months. These eight-legged creatures most commonly lurk in woodland, heathlands and grassy areas and are most active between the months of March to October, but are present all year round. Areas that contain deer or sheep are likely to have a higher frequency of ticks.
But ticks are more than just a bothersome inconvenience. They also transmit serious bacterial infections, such as Lyme disease. It is very important that you check your pet after every outing. Run your fingers through their fur to feel for any hidden lumps and bumps and keep your eyes peeled for anything crawling around in their fur. Ticks start off as very small and pale but will become larger as they ingest the blood of their host.
You must take care when removing a tick as improper techniques may cause further damage. For example, try not to squeeze the tick, as this could push blood back into your pet, increasing their risk of disease. It’s also important that you ensure the head is removed as if left behind this could cause inflammation or infection. The best way to remove a tick is with a specialised tick removal tool. Your veterinarian will be able to show you the correct ‘twisting’ technique if you are unsure of how to do this.
If a tick has bitten your pet, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of Lyme disease as it can be treated more effectively if detected early. Unlike humans, pets will not display the tell-tale red ‘bulls eye’ sign of a bite from a tick infected with Lyme disease. Instead, you will need to look out for other symptoms like loss of appetite, lameness, lethargy, fever and swollen joints.
If you live in an area that is very prone to ticks, it may be worth talking to your veterinarian about tick prevention treatments. This may be in the form of tablets, repellent collars or sprays. You should also be aware that ticks also bite humans so it’s important that you also check yourself, as well as your dog, when you return home from a walk. Tick bites can be avoided by wearing long sleeves and trousers when out walking or by purchasing a tick repellent spray.