Ticks are small spiderlike blood-sucking parasites that bite to fasten themselves onto the skin and feed on the blood of hosts, they can carry a host of dangerous diseases which can be transmitted to both pets and humans. Tick exposure can occur year-round, but they tend to be more active during the warmer months, in the UK we tend to see them seasonally between March & June and again between August & November.
Types of Tick – there are over 12 species of tick present in the UK, but 3 types are the most likely to latch onto our pets.
The most common of the UK ticks can be found in many places, including forests, caves & our gardens. It is the most common tick to be found on cats & the 2nd most common to be found on dogs.
Found mainly in areas of rough grazing, moorland, woodland & areas where wild deer & rabbits are in abundance.
Found in kennelling facilities.
A 4th type is not so well known as it is mainly located in wooded areas in western Europe, however, it has been found in certain coastal areas in the West & also on the South East coast, where it has recently been reported as having transmitted the disease Babesiosis around parts of Essex.
Diseases associated with tick bites – Most ticks do not carry diseases and most don’t cause serious health problems, however, tick bites can cause a variety of diseases, 2 of the most deadly being…..
- Babesia – a parasite that invades mainly dogs, but in some rare instances cats, red blood cells. It causes the red blood cells to burst & infect other blood cells before replicating the process. The process along, with the body trying to fight & destroy the infected cells, causes anaemia in the host. The animal will become jaundiced, anorexic, produces red urine, can develop kidney disease & die. Treatment involves high dosages of medications for a number of weeks.
- Lyme Disease (caused by the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi) – affects both humans & dogs, it is much easier to treat if detected early, but is notoriously difficult to diagnose. In humans, see your GP if you get flu like symptoms such as high temperature, feeling hot and shivery, headaches, aching muscles or feeling sick or if you get a circular red rash. See your GP if you have been bitten by a tick or visited an area in the past month where infected ticks are found. Be sure to inform your GP that you have been in forests or grassy areas. In dogs, the clinical signs can include, general discomfort when you touch your animal, fever, lameness, painful swollen joints and kidney disease. Treatment is with a long course of antibiotics & pain relief.
How to avoid tick bites? – The best way to protect yourself and your pets is by preventing the bites. For your pets there are many treatments available & for the best course of action you should consult with your vet to discuss your best options (Note: DO NOT use dog treatments to treat cats, many of the chemicals used are lethal to cats).
The easiest way to protect yourself & your pets is prevention….
- Stay away from tick infested areas.
- Stick to paths whenever possible.
- Ensure your skin is covered while walking outdoors in grassy or wooded areas.
- Wear a long sleeve shirt and a hat, as well as long trousers -for added protection tuck your trousers into your socks.
- Wear gloves when you handle animals or work in the woods.
- Wear light coloured clothing so ticks are easier to spot and brush off.
- Safely apply insect repellent on your clothes and skin-products containing DEET are best. Remember to wash the repellent off with soap and water after returning indoors.
On returning home you should…….
- Check your clothing for ticks – Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks. If your clothes require washing, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
- Examine gear and pets – Ticks can ride into the home on your equipment and pets, so carefully examine pets, coats, shoes/boots and backpacks.
- Shower soon after being outdoors – Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
- Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check of both yourself & your children, paying particular attention to these areas;
On finding a tick it should be removed immediately. It is important to remove a tick as soon as you find it, removing the body helps to avoid diseases the tick may pass on during feeding & removing the head helps prevent the infection in the skin where the tick bit you.
- Tick removers are by far the safest and easiest equipment to use to remove ticks and are relatively inexpensive to purchase from most pet shops & vets (this is what we use in the salon, so if you can get to us, give us a call & we’ll happily arrange for you to pop in, so we can remove the tick for you).
- Fine Tipped tweezers can also be used, but care must be taken to remove ticks as putting pressure on the tick’s body can release saliva into your animal increasing the risk of spread of any disease they may carry. Pulling on the tick can also risk leaving the mouthpart in the skin, causing an abscess to develop in time.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
As some ticks are so small it is sometimes hard to tell whether the tick’s head has been removed however if you do not see any obvious parts of its head in the bite site then assume you have removed the entire tick.
Having removed the tick……
- Thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with antiseptic or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
- Watch for signs of a skin infection. Carefully examine your skin and scalp. Be aware that the longer the tick is attached the more likely it is to pass on any infection.
- If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your GP, ensuring, you tell the GP about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.