Part of the arachnid family, and closely related to scorpions, spiders and mites; ticks are small parasitic creatures that lurk in grassy areas, awaiting an unsuspecting host, in this case, your dog. Ranking second only to mosquitoes in the spreading of infectious disease (among human and animal) – ticks are a tiny but formidable foe.
There are around 20 species of tick living in the UK. Due to their penchant for woodland, marshes and meadows of wet, long grasses, ticks are a particular risk for your working dog. Although most active in spring and autumn, they’re found lurking about all year, as long as the temperature is above 7°C.
Are ticks harmful to dogs?
Not only are they irritating and uncomfortable to your dog, and hideous-looking (google Ixodida), as parasites, ticks can also pick up infections from one mammalian host and then pass it onto another – resulting in the spread of disease.
Sometimes, ticks carry Lyme disease which they can spread to both humans and our pets through biting. Lyme disease is a particularly nasty bacterial infection. In dogs, the most common symptoms include lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, swollen and sometimes painful joints, intermittent lameness, and swollen lymph nodes. If left untreated, it can cause damage in the heart, kidneys, and nervous system.
Not only that, but ticks can also carry a myriad other harmful diseases and pathogens, often bringing them into the UK from abroad. With this in mind, speak to your vet if you’re thinking of travelling with your pet.
How can I avoid my dog picking up ticks?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to prevent your working dog from getting ticks. If you’re regularly out and about in the countryside; the likelihood of encountering them is high. However, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the risk and quickly eliminate the pests should they prevail.
1. Use a tick treatment
The good old flea collar is surprisingly effective at keeping ticks at bay, but with modern methods emerging, there are much more effective ways to beat the tick.
Spot-protectors work well, as are orally administered repellants. Brands like Bravecto, which act by inhibiting the tick’s nervous system, are effective for three months. However, be sure to read about the side effects as some can be drastic, and sometimes lethal to your dog.
2. Check your dog(s) thoroughly
If you are in a high-risk area, regularly check your dog for ticks. You’ll usually find them on his stomach, ears, head, legs, and in the creases of their armpits.
3. Avoid high-risk areas
This advice is easier said than done if you enjoy the shooting season, or walking in woodland areas! Ticks are more common in moorland and wooded areas, especially in the long grass. If you struggle to avoid these areas, regular, thorough checking is highly advised.
4. Check how common ticks are
If you’re planning on travelling to an event with your dog, check how common ticks are in the local area. Ensure you use a treatment that will kill and repel ticks.
How to remove ticks
When removing an embedded tick, it is imperative to pull out the entire body. Leaving the head behind will result in a painful abscess and possible infection for your dog.
Tick removal tools are the best implement to use – and readily available for minimal cost online, and in most reputable pet shops. Cleverly designed with a forked end; this tool allows you to prise the tick cleanly from your dog, using a swift and satisfying twisting action.