Preventing ticks on cats and dogs

Ticks are nasty little parasites which feed on humans and animals alike. They’re more common in warmer months, meaning our pets are at risk of picking these critters up between late spring and autumn. We’ve put together our advice on preventing your pet from picking up ticks.

Not only are ticks unpleasant, but they can also be dangerous to our pets as they can carry harmful diseases such as Lyme disease. If you find a tick on your pet, it’s best to speak to a vet or vet nurse before trying to remove it yourself. You can find out more about ticks on pets and Lyme disease on our Hub:

Tick treatment during the pandemic

If your veterinary practice isn’t able to dispense your pet’s usual prescription tick treatment you could try contacting another veterinary practice. If this isn’t possible, you may need to consider using a non-prescription product (from a pet shop, or online) until your vet is operating a full service again.

If your pet has a condition that requires a specific tick treatment or you are concerned about them, it's important to contact your vet to discuss your options.


What do ticks look like?

Ticks can be surprisingly hard to spot on your pet until they get quite big, which is why it’s important to check them regularly. It’s best to remove ticks as soon as possible after they latch on to reduce the risk they’ll pass on a disease.

When they first attach, a tick may be the size of a small pinhead but, as they suck blood, they can grow to the size of a match head and may look like a bluish-grey, pink or purple lump.

They look like little skin lumps but if you look closer, you should be able to see their legs. After they’ve been feeding, they can grow to around 1cm.

Are ticks harmful to pets?

While they do suck your pet’s blood and can be uncomfortable, what makes ticks dangerous is that they can carry disease. Often, ticks can carry Lyme disease which they can spread to both us and our pets through biting.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection and can make your pet lethargic, give them swollen joints and other symptoms. To find out more about Lyme disease in pets, including symptoms and treatment, visit our free advice page on our Hub.

Ticks can also carry other nasty diseases, which didn’t used to be present in the UK. However with increasing numbers of pets travelling or being imported from countries with these diseases, vets are starting to report more and more cases of other tick-borne diseases. Speak to your vet if you’re thinking of travelling with your pet.


How to remove a tick

If you find a tick on your pet, we’d recommend getting it removed (or removing it yourself if you have the right tools) as soon as possible.

You can read more guidance on removing ticks safely on our Hub page.


How can I stop my pet getting ticks?

There’s no one way to completely stop your pet from getting ticks, but there’s a lot you can do to reduce the risk:

  • Treat your pet for ticks. Some flea treatments and collars also repel ticks, so it’s worth speaking to your vet to find the right treatment for your pet. You can also buy treatments online for cats or dogs from the PDSA Pet Store:
  • Avoid areas with lots of ticks. Ticks are more common in wooded and moorland areas, especially in long grass. If ticks are a problem where you live, try to avoid walking your dog in these areas and stick to paths.
  • Check your pet. Regularly check your pet for ticks. The most common place to find ticks on them are on their head, ears, legs, armpits and tummy.
  • Check how common ticks are. If you’re planning to go on holiday with your dog, check how common ticks are in the local area and make sure they have been treated with a treatment that will kill and repel ticks if it’s higher risk.