Tick Bite Prevention Week- 24th-30th March 2023
27th February, 2023
As its name suggests, "Tick Bite Prevention Week" provides information and awareness to help prevent ticks from biting people and pets. It also gives advice on what to do if ticks do attach. The campaign week is held in early spring when the weather gets warmer, people spend more time outdoors and ticks become more active.
Our vet care provider Joii share facts, their expert tips and knowledge.
What is a tick?
Ticks are small parasites that feed on the blood of animals, including people. They have 8 legs and look a bit like spiders. Once they latch on to your pet, ticks will stay on them for 5-10 days to feed.
Ticks are about the size of a seed when they start to feed and can grow to the size of a pea over the next few days. If you've ever found something that looks for all the world like a smooth greyish wart on your fur baby, chances are it was a tick!
Ticks can't fly, jump, or spin webs. They get onto cats and dogs by climbing up blades of grass so they can latch on to them as they brush past. They are common in woodland, moorland, grassy fields and anywhere that green space is shared with wildlife, like deer, sheep, or hedgehogs. This can include your garden.
Tick bites are most common in Spring and Autumn when ticks are most active. However, warmer wetter weather due to climate change is making ticks a problem throughout the year.
Tick bites can make animals and humans very sick because of the infectious diseases they spread. Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by ticks in the UK today. However, this is still a rare illness in dogs. Ticks and Lyme disease do not spread directly between pets and humans
Dogs and cats of any age or breed can get tick bites, but they're most common in pets who go outside into gardens or any green spaces.
In a big study carried out by vet practices during the UK summer months, ticks were found on 31%, nearly a third of all dogs who came into the practice for any reason. The most common type of tick on dogs is Ixodes Ricinus the 'sheep tick' or 'deer tick', which causes 90% of tick bites.
Tick bites are less common in cats. Just over 6% of UK cats get ticks. However, the risk seems to be relatively greater for urban cats, where the hedgehog tick is the culprit. Ixodes Hexagionus, the hedgehog tick is the tick most found on cats and the second most common in dogs.
Other ticks, like Dermacentor reticulatus, the 'meadow tick' or 'marsh tick', are much less common at the moment and usually only found in warmer areas of the UK, like the South and South West of England. But this is also changing with the climate warming.
You can find out the risk of ticks in your area by looking up an interactive map created for this purpose using data from the "Big Tick Survey".
Ticks that are not native to the UK are surviving more easily in our changing climate. Pet travel and imported dogs increase the risk of these parasites and diseases they carry entering the UK.
Although they don't cause disease themselves, ticks can carry bacteria and other microbes that do cause dangerous illnesses. They transfer disease by passing infections between animals when they feed on their blood.
Ticks spread infectious diseases between animals more than any other parasite except mosquitoes.
Lyme disease is the most serious and common disease transmitted through tick bites in the UK, Figures from human medicine suggest 3000 cases per year in England and Wales, but the figure is likely to be higher than this and rising.
Roughly 2.5% of ticks in the UK carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the microbe that causes Lyme Disease. 95% of dogs who are infected with borrelia will not develop any symptoms.
The majority of the remaining 5% only develop mild signs
A very small number may develop symptoms of more severe illness, including:
- high temperature
- loss of appetite
- lameness and painful joints affecting one or more limbs
- enlarged lymph glands
In the worst cases, Lyme disease can cause life-threatening kidney damage. However, this is extremely rare
Lyme disease is extremely rare in cats. The symptoms would be similar.
Other rare diseases which can be spread by ticks include babesiosis, tick-borne fever and ehrlichiosis
How can I keep my pet safe from ticks?
Once a tick attaches, it takes 1-3 days for bacteria to be transferred from the tick to the animal they are feeding on.
Check your pet at the end of each day. If you find a tick, it should be removed as soon as possible. It's important to remove ticks without leaving the mouthparts inside your pet's skin. This is done by gently twisting the tick at its base, between the body and the skin. Blunt-ended tweezers can be used, but the safest way is using a special tick-removing tool.
Once it is removed, check the tick mouthparts are present (the tick is whole!) and dispose of it safely, ideally wearing gloves.
Warning! The following methods should never be used to remove ticks:
- Covering with petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
These cause the tick to eject its stomach contents into your pet before they die and increase the risk of infections
Common locations for ticks on pets:
- Paws and legs
There are treatments available to repel and/or to kill ticks on pets, However, no treatment is 100%. So, it's essential to check your pet every day for ticks.
Tick preventive treatments include spot-on treatments and tablets, which last between four and twelve weeks. There is also a special collar for dogs called "Seresto", which lasts 8 months and is ideal for dogs who travel abroad.
The 'best' option depends on your dog or cat's lifestyle and how easy it is to give them pills. Dogs who swim will be better with tablets. Swimming interferes with surface spot-on treatments and the chemicals they contain can damage water courses.
Some pets just won't take tablets!
Never give dog medication to cats and vice versa. This can be extremely dangerous for your pet.
There is one Lyme disease vaccine available in the UK for dogs at high risk
Ask a vet about the best product for your pet.
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