We’ve been getting a lot of questions about ticks recently so we thought it would be worth answering some FAQs.
Why am I seeing so many ticks at the moment?
Ticks are most active from March to October with a rise in numbers at the beginning and end of summer. Over winter they become inactive.
Where does my pet pick up ticks?
Ticks are widespread in the UK and can be found in both rural and urban areas. To complete their life cycle ticks need a high level of moisture. Therefore areas of dense vegetation are particularly high risk, for example; long grass, woodland and ground-cover plants in gardens. Areas with animals/ wildlife are also high risk as the potential to feed increases the population.
Should I be checking my pet for ticks?
It’s a good idea to do a tick check after walks in a high risk area or at a high risk time of year- both for you and your pet! Make sure to check the inside of the ears, between toes, groin and armpits- ticks are good at hiding! For cats it’s a good idea to give them a look over a couple of times a week.
Why do I still find ticks on my pet even when it’s been treated with an anti-tick product?
Anti-tick products all rely on the tick feeding to ingest the toxin. Depending on the product it may take between 12 and 48 hours for the tick to drop off. These products still prevent the transmission of diseases including lymes disease. Although veterinary prescribed products will eventually cause ticks to drop off, if you do find a tick on your animal we recommend you remove it safely as soon as possible.
What’s the best way to remove a tick?
The only way to safely remove a tick is with a special tick remover. The plastic hook slides under the body of the tick and a gentle twisting action releases the mouth parts without damaging them.
DO NOT…use heat, oil or soap, alcohol your fingers or tweezers!
ALL of the above methods can cause either, the mouth parts to be left behind- which can cause inflammation or abscess and/or the tick to regurgitate its stomach contents including the pathogens which cause disease. If you are having trouble removing a tick please book in for a FREE nurse clinic and we can give you a hand to get it off. We also sell tick hooks at the practice.
What about Lymes Disease?
There a number of diseases spread by ticks in the UK, probably the most widely known is lymes disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Recent surveys suggest that 2.3% of ticks in the UK are infected with lymes disease. Lymes disease can affect both people and animals however there are no cases of an animal passing the disease directly to a human. Lymes disease has never been reported as a clinical problem in cats although they are able to be infected.
What are the signs of Lymes disease?
In dogs there may be a rash where the tick attached but it is uncommon for dogs to develop the distinctive ‘bulls eye’ lesion which is commonly seen in humans. Often signs don’t develop until two to five months after being infected and include lethargy, fever, inflamed joints and limping in more than one leg and enlarged lymph nodes. These signs may be worse if your dog is very young or immune-compromised.
In humans a distinctive ‘bulls eye’ rash often develops three to thirty days after being bitten. Initial symptoms are flu like and include tiredness, fever, joint aches and muscle pain. If not treated Lymes disease can go on to cause serious problems. If you are concerned that either you or your pet has Lymes disease make sure to see a doctor/ vet as soon as possible to receive treatment.
What about Babesia, I’ve heard there are cases in the UK?
Babesia is a protozoan parasite spread by ticks and found widely in Continental Europe, Africa and Asia. It can cause anaemia, jaundice, weakness as well as more serious consequences if left untreated. Babesia is still very rare in the UK and the majority of cases have been in dogs imported from abroad. In March 2016 several cases of Babesiosis were reported in dogs with no history of foreign travel however, these were all associated with a very specific area in Essex. In general Babesiosis is still very rare in the UK.
Further information can be found on the ESCCAP website (European Scientific Council Companion Animal Parasites). If you have any further questions or want to discuss preventative treatment please feel free to book an appointment either online or by calling reception on 01626 367 972.