Preventing parasites: ticks

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites which feed on both humans and animals. They’re in full force during the warmer months, with numbers peaking between late spring and autumn. These little critters aren’t just unpleasant – they can also be potentially dangerous.

The dangers of tick bites

Ticks carry Lyme Disease (Borreliosis) and they can pass this on to both pets and their human companions.

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection which can cause symptoms in your pets like:

  • A rash
  • raised temperature
  • lack of energy
  • lameness, due to swollen joints
  • swollen lymph nodes (glands in the neck and around the body).

Lyme Disease is still fairly rare in the UK but cases are on the rise so it’s important to keep a close eye on your pet.

Preventing ticks on your pets

  • Some flea treatments also kill ticks – speak to your vet about the right treatment for your pet.
  • 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.
  • Regularly check your dog or cat for ticks. The most common place to find ticks on pets are the head, ears, legs and underside.
  • Hedgehogs and foxes are common tick carriers, meaning pets in urban areas with high fox populations are also at risk.

What to do if you spot a tick on your pet

Vet removing a tick with special tick tweezers

  • 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.
  • The sooner you remove the tick the better – the longer the tick is attached, the higher the risk of it spreading Lyme disease.
  • Get advice from a vet before removing a tick from your pet - it’s easy to remove the body of the tick and leave the mouth behind in the skin. If the tick isn’t fully removed it can cause an infection.
  • Special tick tweezers are available to buy, but need to be used carefully.
  • Don’t crush or squeeze the tick’s body and don’t try and destroy the tick with a lighted match. Don’t put Vaseline on the tick as it may drop off but can still be alive to bite another victim.
  • Remember, Lyme disease is spread by infected ticks not from pet to person so, once you’ve safely removed the tick, you can give your pet a well-deserved hug!