During spring, many of us will be happy to spend some extra time with our pets in the fresh air. However, there may be critters hidden in your pup’s favourite outdoor spots that can be dangerous. Parasites such as ticks tend to spike in numbers during the warmer spring months. According to a recent study, around 1 in 3 dogs has a tick at any one time, and 1 in 25 ticks is infected with diseases like Lyme disease.
To reduce your dog’s risk of catching these diseases, preventing tick bites is key. Ticks are often found in long, damp grass and shrubbery, especially where wildlife is present. Keeping your dog on a lead and sticking to areas of short grass may help avoid ticks, but isn’t foolproof and should be used in combination with other, more reliable, options!
There are a variety of products available that repel and kill ticks, and using the best one for your dog’s lifestyle is important. Collars, tablets, and spot-on treatments are available, and your local vet can help you determine which is the best option for your pet.
Preventative collars can contain a variety of drugs. Some, usually available from the pet store or pharmacy, simply contain a repellent. Others contain a repellent and also a drug which spreads through your dog’s skin – this will poison any ticks that bite. The best collars last for several months and are available from your vet.
Spot-ons work similarly – they spread through your dog’s skin, giving them protection. Again, there is usually a big difference in the level of protection offered by a store-bought spot on and the ones available from your vet. Spot-ons are good for fussy dogs but work less well if your dog is prone to swimming or needs regular bathing.
Tablets suit dogs who are bathed regularly. They’re usually flavoured, and depending on the drug can last for 2 months or more with a single dose. They don’t have any repellent effect, so ticks need to bite to be killed. However, they act quickly once a tick has latched, generally before any diseases have been passed around.
You should check yourself and your dog for ticks after walking to ensure they’re removed before they can spread diseases. A newly-latched tick won’t be very large as it won’t be full of blood – you’re looking for a dark or creamy-grey wart-like lump. As they feed, they grow and become darker. Ticks are often easier to feel than to see – run your hands over your dog’s . face, neck, underbelly and inside of the legs to check for ticks.
Once you have spotted a tick on your dog, it is best to act quickly to remove it. You can remove it yourself, but make sure to be careful, as it is easy to accidentally leave some of the tick behind without the right equipment.
The best way to remove a tick is to use a specialist tool such as a tick fork or tick twister. These tools are available online and are usually pointed to help you get beneath the tick easily. Using using tweezers to remove a tick can cause it to vomit into the wound, and potentially allow tickborne diseases to enter your dog’s system. Similarly, covering the affected area with substances like Vaseline or rubbing alcohol can also make ticks regurgitate, so they should be kept away from the wound, too.
Insert the tick fork under the tick and use a twisting motion to dislodge the tick, rather than a straight pull. A twisting technique will help to prevent any part of the tick from being left behind.. Once you have removed the tick, be sure to dispose of it securely by ’popping’ it or flushing it down the toilet, to ensure that it doesn’t come back to bother your dog again.
After removing the tick, it is important to clean the area with clean, warm water and inspect it carefully for any pieces of tick still in the skin. It is a good idea to keep an eye on your dog in the following weeks to check for the signs of Lyme Disease. If your dog seems restless or stiffer than usual, schedule an appointment with your vet for a check up. However, if you see any swelling around the lymph nodes, which would be seen around the shoulders and under the jaw, then it’s important to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. While most tick bites are relatively harmless, erring on the side of caution and consulting a professional is always wise.