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Looking After Your My dog has ticks: what should I do?

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My dog has ticks: what should I do?

Ticks are an increasing problem in the UK. A study by the University of Bristol in 2009 found that 15% of dogs examined randomly at veterinary practices in the UK had ticks. This number is considerably higher than expected and raises concerns about the incidence of tick borne diseases, which can have serious health implications for our pets. 

In the UK, there are several species of tick, which can attach to people and their pets, with Ixodes ricinus (sheep tick), Ixodes hexagonus (hedgehog tick) and Dermacentor reticulates (marsh tick) being the most common. Once attached, ticks feed on the hosts’ blood for 2-4 days before dropping off to complete their lifecycle. They thrive in temperate climates so their numbers can be seen to escalate in spring and summer. 

How do you know if your pet has a tick? 

Ticks vary in colour and size dependant on their species, age and stage of lifecycle.  The BADA-UK website provides some good photographs of some of the most common ticks found in the UK. Generally, the ticks on our pets will appear grey, swollen bodied and seen to protrude through the pets fur. 

Why do we worry about ticks? 

Ticks can cause local reactions in the areas where they attach and sometimes this can result in abscesses developing in the skin. Furthermore, and more worrying for us, they can transmit blood borne diseases as they move from host to host. Lyme’s disease is one disease present in the UK that is transmitted via ticks and infected ticks pose a threat to both pets and their owners. Also, with more and more animals travelling abroad, ticks acquired whilst on foreign soil could potentially transmit ‘exotic’ diseases to the UK population, such as babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.

What can we do to prevent and treat ticks?

In order to protect our animals from these diseases, we need to reduce the potential for ticks to attach to our pets and ourselves. Check your pet regularly for the presence of these parasites and prevent them attaching in the first place. The simplest way to do this is by using topical medications. Spot on treatments, such as Frontline or Effipro, and Fipronil based sprays are all products licensed to kill ticks and are the most common products used to control tick problems. There are also several other types of spot on medications, which can be used for the same effect but these may require a prescription from your vet.  You can read more about how you can buy prescription medication from us on our prescriptions page.  You can view the full range of products on offer in the fleas, ticks, mites & parasites section.

If you happen to come across a tick in your pets fur, we recommend you follow these simple steps:

1. Remove the tick as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours of attachment: This is best achieved using a specialised tick remover as this increases the likelihood of a successful detachment. 

Using tweezers or pulling it out by hand can sometimes result in the body and head parts becoming detached and left embedded in the hosts skin, possibly going on to cause a local abscess.

In the absence of a tick remover, the tick can be smothered in Vaseline or surgical spirit where it suffocates and eventually detaches, although most people prefer to remove the tick outright.

Current thinking is that removal of the tick is much more important than the concerns about leaving the head parts in situ. Tick removal within 24 hours of attachment greatly reduces the risk of disease transmission.

2. Treat with medication. Apply a suitable medication, as discussed above, according to the manufacturers recommendations to pets infested with ticks.  This will kill the unwanted ticks, especially if you concentrate spray-based treatments on the area that the tick is attached. You're more likely to find ticks on your pets in spring and later summer but they can potentially bite your pet anytime throughout the warmer months.

3. Prevention is better than cure: Dogs walked in woodland on a frequent basis are most at risk and preventive measures are vitally important to reduce risks to both pets and their owners.

Doolittle’s Dispensary recommends that pet owners use a licensed tick treatment on a regular basis to prevent tick attachment. If you notice any reaction in the skin where the tick was attached, we recommend you contact your veterinary surgeon. Also, if your pet becomes unwell after having a tick, you should also seek veterinary advice.