Besides being unsightly, spider-like parasites, ticks pose a very real health risk to our animals, sucking their blood and transmitting disease-causing microbes. Fortunately, they are big enough to spot and feel (more so when engorged with blood), so as long as you check for them regularly, you minimise your dog’s risk of infection.
Ticks can be found anywhere on the body, although they tend to congregate in certain areas e.g. the legs, between toes, under the collar and tail, and even on the eyelids! After every walk, run your hands over your dog’s body and have a look for these egg-shaped critters.
The longer a tick is attached to the skin, the more chance it has to transmit disease. Typically, if a disease-carrying tick is removed within 24-48 hours, there is less potential for it to infect your dog.
Therefore, it needs to be removed quickly, but safely. Safe removal can be difficult as you don’t want to damage the tick in the process of extracting it. This may lead to infection, as the tick expels blood back into your dog when squeezed. The best option is to use a specialist tick-removal tool, which carefully twists the tick off.
When it comes to ticks, there are two diseases you need to be aware of:
Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne disease and is spread by the Ixodes ricinus tick, or ‘sheep tick.’ It is also a zoonosis, meaning it can be transmitted to humans from animals.
The biggest concern with Lyme infection is chronic kidney disease which can result if it isn’t treated immediately. Other symptoms will also be apparent, which will range in severity. They can include increased fatigue, loss of appetite, depression and recurrent lameness, which usually switches from one leg to another.
Babesiosis is a malaria-like disease which replicates in the red blood cells, eventually leading to severe anaemia. In March 2016, there was an outbreak of Babesiosis in Harlow, Essex, which affected four dogs walked on a similar patch of land.
Symptoms of infection include fatigue or weakness, fever, jaundice, discoloured stool, brown or red urine, and pale gums. These signs typically develop over a two-week period, although sometimes they remain so mild, diagnosis isn’t made for a while.
If you have recently walked your dog in a rural or woodland area and suspect he may have Babesiosis, take him along to your vet immediately.
As well as checking your dog regularly, it important that you also treat your dog regularly, as one without the other isn’t enough. We stock a range of treatments for tick control, including market-leaders Frontline/Frontline Plus and Fipnil, and specialist tick removal tools.
Written by: Hannah