There are hundreds of species of tick around the world, and several can be found in the UK, especially in spring and summer.
Those that pose a threat to dogs are sheep ticks (Ixodes ricnius) and hedgehog ticks (Ixodes hexagonus). While they can be found all year round, their numbers increase between March and November when temperatures rise.
Another species that pose a significant threat is the brown dog or kennel tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineous). It can be found all over the world, including in France, Spain, Greece and the US, so is a particular threat to holidaymakers. While there have been no proven cases in dogs in the UK, there have been sightings of the brown dog tick and concerns have been raised about its spread.
Where do Ticks Live?
Ticks in the UK are typically found in grassland, scrub, shrubs and on low-hanging tree branches. They tend to climb onto an animal when they brush against them.
How long do Ticks Live?
Female ticks lay eggs each spring. They can lay around 2000, which are tiny (0.7mm long). After laying their eggs, female ticks shrivel and die. Tick eggs hatch as six-legged larvae in the summer of the same year they are laid. They’re about the size of a full stop.
The larvae remain inactive until the following spring when they climb grass shoots or trees and wait for a host such as a dog, cat, mouse, squirrel, hedgehog, rabbit, bird, deer, cow or sheep to pass. They then spend up to a week sucking the blood of their host, before falling to the ground.
A year later they re-emerge to search for another host to latch on to. This time they feed for up to 11 days before detaching and falling to the ground. At this point, the tick matures into an adult.
Once again, the tick will remain inactive until the following spring, when they’ll start their third and final search for another host. Once they find it, adult female ticks will feed for between 8 and 12 days. During this feeding frenzy, their weight will increase by as much as 100 times before they lay their eggs and die off. The three-year tick cycle will then start all over again.
Half of dog owners do not know that ticks can transmit deadly diseases to both humans and other dogs – most common transmitted diseases are:
In a recent survey 54% of pet owners admitted they weren't aware that Lyme disease can affect people and their pets.
What does a Tick look like?
Ticks can vary in size from 1mm up to 1cm long. Small ticks can be difficult to spot. They usually become obvious when you run your hand over your dog’s head, ears, neck or feet and spot a small lump that wasn’t there before (although they can latch on to any part of the body where there is a good blood supply). Ticks on dogs typically have a cream-coloured, oval body that turns darker as it fills with blood.
How to get rid of Ticks on dogs
Groom your dog regularly to check for infestations. If you do find a tick NEVER try to pull or scrape it off using your fingernails. Instead, buy a claw-shaped tool called a ‘tick twister’ from your daytime vet and follow the instructions carefully. This should allow you to remove the tick safely. Just be sure not to break off the head of the tick so it’s left under the skin. If you do this by accident call your vet for advice.
A great way to remove ticks safely from your dog is to use a tick remover such as the one on Amazon for only £2.99.
Disposing of Ticks on Dogs
Once you’ve successfully managed to remove the tick from your dog, be sure to have a sealed jar or container on hand to place it in. Ticks carry dangerous diseases and should be killed and disposed of carefully. You should also clean the affected area on your dog thoroughly. If you have any concerns, talk to your vet immediately.
You can send your tick to the Public Health England’s Tick Recording Scheme. They will identify it for you and add the information to their database. (They will not test your tick for disease though.)
Do not handle a tick with bare hands as certain organisms in the tick’s saliva or gut contents may enter through breaks in the skin, or the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose, or mouth if you touch them.
Do not release a tick once it has been removed as it may survive to lay lots of eggs or bite another person or animal.
Can Dog Owners get Lyme Disease from Ticks?
The short answer - Yes. While there’s no evidence of dogs spreading the disease to their owners directly, they can bring disease-carrying ticks into people’s homes. As is the case with dogs, if you’re bitten by a tick, use a purpose-built hook to remove it. If you try to pull the tick out directly you risk leaving part of its head or mouth inside your body. You should contact your doctor urgently if you experience flu-like symptoms or a rash after being bitten by a tick, or if the bite becomes infected.
How to Avoid being Bitten by a Tick
The simplest advice is to use insect repellent and avoid exposing your skin while out for a walk. In other words, wear long-sleeved tops, long socks and a hat. You should also regularly check your clothes for ticks and brush off any you find immediately.
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