Dogs and ticks
Ticks are spider-like, egg-shaped, blood-sucking creepy crawlies. They have eight legs and vary in size from about 1mm to 1cm long. Adult ticks look a bit like small spiders.
Ticks are common in woodland, grassland and heath areas, but can also be found in your garden if you live in an area with lots of wildlife. You are most likely to come across them in areas with lots of deer or sheep.
You are most likely to come across ticks between spring and autumn, but they are active throughout the year.
Ticks don’t fly or jump, but climb or drop on to your dog’s coat when you brush past the area they are sitting in.
How do I know if my dog has a tick?
Ticks are big enough to spot. Run your hands over your dog’s body 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.
Cat tick close up
Ticks are spider-like, egg-shaped, blood-sucking creepy crawlies. Photo by Andre Karwath.
They tend to attach themselves to areas around a dog’s head, neck, ear and feet. Brushing also helps to remove them.
Ticks vary in size between 1mm and 1cm long, depending on their age. They look like tiny spiders with a whiteish, egg-shaped body. This body becomes larger and darker as it fills with blood.
How do I remove a tick from my dog safely?
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.
This 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.
Twisting them off your dog is the best removal method, and pet shops sell handy tick-removal devices to make this easier. Ask your vet for advice.
Why should I protect my dog against ticks?
Ticks are very good at passing on infections from one animal to another. They feed by biting an animal and feasting on blood. This may take several days. Once they have had enough, they drop off.
Ticks transmit microbes that cause diseases, such as Lyme disease and babesiosis.
Check your dog's body for ticks when you come back from a walk. Brushing their fur will also help.
If you live in an area with ticks, it’s a good idea to use a tick treatment that will either repel ticks or kill them if they attach. Spot on treatments, tablets and collars are available and it’s best to 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 can even kill them.
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 and 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.
Babesiosis can be spread by tick bites. The incubation period is about two weeks, but some pets are not diagnosed with the disease for months or years after transmission.
If your dog is suffering from babesiosis you may notice they are 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 make sure to tell them your dog may have been bitten by a tick. Sadly a dog has died after contracting the disease in Harlow, Essex.