Watch out…ticks are about!

Many of you will already be familiar with what a tick looks like and may even have spotted one on your own pet…or even yourself – Yuk! These creepy critters can be found just about anywhere and can be lurking in woodlands, fields, local parks or even your own garden!

They tend to be most active during the spring and autumn when they will be out and about looking for their next meal, which could be your pet! However, due to climate change, we are starting to experience much warmer winters, allowing ticks to remain active during the winter too, so it’s important to be vigilant and protect pet against ticks all-year-round.

There are lots of different species of ticks that can be found in the UK and also around the world. However, the species of tick that you are most likely to find on your dog is the ‘sheep tick’ (AKA Ixodes ricinus) and the ‘hedgehog tick’ (AKA Ixodes hexagonus) is the most common tick found on cats.

Ticks are the ‘vampires’ of the parasite world and need to feed on the blood of their ‘hosts’ to survive, which can include:

• Foxes
• Hedgehogs
• Rodents
• Birds
• Livestock

Unfortunately, cats and dogs, as well as humans, can become ‘accidental’ hosts if they wander into their territory!

What’s so bad about ticks?

Not only can ticks cause your pet discomfort, they can also be carrying nasty bacteria or protozoa. These can be passed onto your pet during feeding, causing serious illnesses such as Lyme disease and Babesiosis, which if left untreated can be life threatening. Also, any soil that is around the tick’s mouthparts can easily become embedded in your pet’s skin as they feed causing tiny abscesses to develop.

What do they look like?

These creepy critters are related to the spider and scorpion family and have eight jointed legs that are excellent for climbing up plant stems or blades of grass, where they can watch out for their next ‘victim’! They vary in appearance depending on the species of tick, how old they are and whether they have just been fed. Young ticks (e.g. larvae or nymphs) are often tiny in size (less them 1mm1) and you are unlikely to spot them easily.

Adult ticks are much easier to spot, especially if they are engorged with blood, as their oval bodies can swell to up to 1cm1 in length! The colour of the tick’s body will vary and after feeding they will turn from a black or brown colour to a brown-grey or salmon pink shade.

Where do ticks like to hang out?

They love hiding in damp shady places that are out of direct sunlight, as they can quickly become dehydrated and die if they get too hot. Consequently, long grasses and dense vegetation provide the perfect hideout. It is here that they will perch unseen on the edges of leaves or stems, waiting for an opportunity to latch on to an animal, bird or even your pet as they brush past.

Once onboard, they will often have a wander around and look for a nice spot to set about feeding on. Ticks particularly like hairless areas, as it is easy for them to access their host’s blood and you will often find them attached to your pet in the following hot-spots:

• Around the head
• Ears (inside and outside)
• Feet (between their toes)
• Groin, belly and armpits

Once they have finished feeding and are engorged with blood they will then drop back off from their host and into the surrounding area – your home or garden!

 

How can I protect my pet against ticks?

1. By using a tick-control product on your pet

There are several licensed veterinary tick control products available on the market that will protect your cat or dog against ticks. These come in the form of impregnated collars and spot-ons, so pick a product that suits your pet the best. For more information check out our selection tick-control products on http://www.dogtor.vet.

2. Check your pet regularly for ticks

It’s a good idea to check your cat or dog regularly for ticks and especially after they have been out on a walk. Make sure you pay particular attention to the tick hot-spot areas on your pet (mentioned above). If your cat or dog has a long coat, use a comb to part the fur and take a peek at the roots of the hairs, as this is where ticks like to hide. Remember, even if you don’t see any obvious adult ticks, there could still be tiny pin-prick sized juvenile ticks present that you will struggle to see!

If you do see a tick, remove it as soon as you can, as the longer, they are attached to your pet, the more chance there is of infections being passed on. The safest way to do this is by carefully using a tick-removing tool that will ensure all head and mouthparts are fully removed. Check out our selection of tick-removing tools on http://www.dogtor.vet.

3. Keep your garden tidy

Lastly, keep your garden clear of any tick-hideouts such as dead leaves, overgrown vegetation or long grasses.

Check-out our tick busting products on Dogtor.vet and keep your pet protected and healthy.

References
1. BADA, http://www.bada-uk.org/

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