How do I prevent my dog from ticks?
What are ticks?
Ticks are parasites with large jaws that attach to pets, and humans, and feed on their blood. Ticks live on grass and other plants and leap onto a host as they pass by. When they attach they are generally very small, but they grow rapidly when they latch on and start feeding. They may also change colour when feeding too, often going from brown to a pearly grey.
The most common tick in the UK is the sheep tick, or castor bean tick, and it does look like a bean when fed. Initially ticks are small, but they can become over a centimetre long if they take a full meal!
We’re seeing many more ticks than before, possible due to the warm, wet winters now common in the UK. In Great Britain, the distribution of ticks is estimated to have expanded by 17% in the last decade alone, and the number of ticks has increased in some studied locations by as much as 73%.
Although tick bites can be uncomfortable, especially if ticks are not removedo0 properly and infections develop, it is the diseases carried and transmitted by ticks that pose the largest threat to our pets – which can be life threatening in 58 some cases.
How do I check my dog for a tick?
The best way to check for ticks on your dog is to give them a close examination, looking and feeling for any unusual lumps and bumps. Around the head, neck and ears are common ‘hot spots’ for ticks, so here is a good place to start, but as ticks can attach anywhere on the body a full search is important.
Any lumps should be thoroughly inspected – ticks can be identified by the small legs at the level of the skin. If you aren’t sure, your vet can help you – any new lumps should always be checked by a vet anyway, so don’t be shy asking for advice if you need it.
You may see swelling around the tick, but often the skin around looks normal. If you do find a tick, don’t be tempted to just pull it off. Tick mouthpieces are buried in the skin, and pulling off a tick can leave these parts within the skin surface, leading to infections.
How do I protect my dog from ticks?
As usual prevention is better than cure and your vet can help you plan the best tick protection – this might be in the form of a collar, spot-ons or tablets. Depending on where you live, tick protection might be recommended to be seasonal (tick season runs from spring to autumn) or all year round. Your local vet can help you with advice.
Always consider the risk of ticks when travelling, and if you do not have up-to-date tick protection for your dog, speak to your vet about getting some before travelling to high risk areas.
After walks, always check your dog thoroughly for ticks and make sure to remove them safely – ask your vet for help if you are unsure.