As temperatures rise, tick numbers are on the increase all over the country. It is an important time to check you are doing all you can to protect your furry friends, as well as yourself.
Ticks are small eight-legged spider-like bugs which attach to the skin of pets and people to suck blood. Ticks often cause irritation of the skin where they attach and can pass potentially serious diseases such as Lyme disease and Babesiosis to humans and pets. Ticks can be found all year round but seem to be most active between spring and autumn time. They are often found in moist areas with leaf litter or longer grass, such as woodlands, grassland, moorland, heathland and some urban parks and gardens.
To prevent tick bites in humans, advice is to walk on clearly defined paths, use insect repellent and perform daily tick checks. If you spend long periods of time doing outdoor activities in grassland, pasture or woodland it would be wise to keep your arms and legs covered and use repellents on your clothes as well. The chances of you catching a disease from a tick increases significantly if the tick has been attached for more than 24 hours, so emphasising the importance of checking yourself and your dogs and cats daily.
In short haired pets, ticks can often be recognised because the hair will stand more upright around the tick if on the body. Ticks are also often found around the face and ears, but don’t forget to check the hard to see places like the armpits and stomach area. Pets with long hair can be more challenging, it is important to run your hands over the pets’ body and to investigate any lumps felt. If you are unsure, your vet or veterinary nurse will happily help.
Some ticks may take time to get firmly attached, so brushing your dog outdoors after a walk, or your cat after it has been out, can get rid of any loose ticks before bringing them into the home.
If you see a tick, they can either be removed with a tick removal device, which uses a simple ‘twist-and-pull’ technique, or fine pointed tweezers. If using tweezers, twisting is not advised, a gentle straight pull will remove the tick. Ticks should never be crushed or squeezed as this could lead to an increased risk of disease transmission. If you are struggling to remove the tick, then consult your GP (for yourself) or vet (for your pet).
Prevention is always better than cure, which is why it is important to speak to your vet about prevention options for your pet. Ticks like both cats and dogs, so it is wise to protect any animal which spends time outdoors. Depending on your pets’ and your own lifestyle, your vet or pet health advisor can advise you on appropriate prevention options. Tick prevention can come in a collar, spot-on or tablet form, so you can discuss what would be best and easiest for you and your pet.
Don’t forget when taking your pet on holiday that different areas/countries may struggle with other diseases or parasites, so contact your vet for the most up to date parasite prevention information. If your pet falls ill when you have returned, then let your vet know where you have been.
Further information: Public Health England have put together some additional great resources that can help keep you and your pets safe. Check out their video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzR1eja6Wa8 and take a look at their blog for some additional tricks and tips https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2014/03/24/tips-and-tricks-to-stay-safe-from-ticks/. If you would like to download the poster we include with this article, it’s available here https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2014/03/24/tips-and-tricks-to-stay-safe-from-ticks/