Are You Ticked off With Ticks?
It’s that time of year where those pesky ticks are blood thirsty! Ticks are external spider-like parasites that survive by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Because of their habit of ingesting blood, ticks are vectors of many diseases that affect humans and other animals.
How to spot a tick
Ticks are big enough to see with the naked eye but they like to hide as can be seen in the picture. It’s a good idea to 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. They seem to favour areas around a dog’s head, neck, ears and feet. Cats are less likely to get ticks than dogs but it is possible so stay vigilant.
Ticks have eight legs with an egg shaped body, which will become larger and darker when filled with blood. Unlike fleas, they don’t fly or jump, instead they climb or drop on your pets coat when they brush past what they’re sitting on.
You are likely to encounter a tick in woodland and grassland and, although active throughout the year, you’ll most likely see them between March and September.
How to remove a tick
Tick bites can carry diseases so it’s important to locate and remove them immediately. DO NOT crush the tick’s body, as this may cause it to regurgitate its infected stomach contents into the bite wound which will increase the chance of them getting a disease. The same goes for leaving the tick’s head in.
To avoid squeezing the body or leaving the head in, you’ll need to twist the tick off. This can be done using a tick removal tool, which can be picked up at pet shops or the vets, here at Animal Aunts HQ we like the O’tom Tick Twister. Your vet will be able to show you the best way to remove a tick by twisting. If no tools are available, rather than delay use pointed tweezers or fine thread, something like cotton or dental floss. Tie a single loop of thread around the tick’s mouth parts, as close to the skin as possible, then pull upwards and outwards without twisting.
Speak to your vet if you’re unsure about how to remove a tick. Don’t try to burn them off or use lotion to suffocate, as this won’t stop the possibility of getting bacterial infections like Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection passed by ticks. Dogs, cats and humans can all get Lyme disease, although it’s uncommon in cats. Depression, loss of appetite, fever, lameness and even swelling or lethargy can all point to Lyme disease in cats or dogs. If caught early, Lyme disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics. Contact your vet immediately if you think your dog or cat has Lyme disease so treatment can be started promptly.
Prevention is always better than cure so consider using a tick treatment that either kills or repels if the tick attaches. Treatments can be tablets or spot-on, ask your vet to recommend a treatment.
Please be advised that some dog tick treatments contain chemicals that are toxic to cats, and can even be fatal to them. So use treatments only as prescribed for your pet.