It’s a Tick’ing time bomb...act quick!
The UK summer season has finally arrived…….okay we understand it’s not exactly the Costa Del Sol with 20 degrees from dusk till dawn, however it does mean these pesky ticks are starting to breed quicker than ever and will be more active in the undergrowth during your walk.
Ticks are a common sight during many dog walks, however due to their size and camouflage colouring they can be hard to spot and also difficult to avoid. Ticks are not only a problem for humans but also your dog too! Spotting and removing a tick quickly is the safest way to prevent the spread of disease and infection. We have put together a small guide in this week’s dog health blog to help you combat these unwanted hitch hikers.
What are ticks?
Ticks are a parasite which rely on blood to survive and produce eggs to breed their young. Their preferred hunting ground is in undergrowth and long grass areas, this sneaky location gives them an upper hand to stay hidden from their newest meal ticket.
Unlike fleas, ticks do not jump nor fly and purely rely on their host passing them in the undergrowth so they can attach themselves to begin feeding. They are over 850 different breeds of tick in the world and the UK is home to around 5-7 of these different breeds. The most common breed in the UK is the “Sheep Tick ” or “Castor Bean Tick”. Both types a very similar looks wise with both being brown/black in colour and can range from between 1mm to 1cm in size! Once a tick has attached themselves they will immediately start slowly extracting the blood from their host, this is an unpleasant experience and can cause infection if not quickly removed.
Follow these simple steps to stay one step ahead…..
Let’s get coat checking!
Are you just home from a long walk in the woods or local park? After each dog walk, simply spend 5mins to perform a full nose to tail check of your dog’s skin for any signs of these unwanted visitors.
If your dog does have a tick, they may try and tell you (in their own doggy way) by scratching or biting the one particular area, this can help you spot the tick even sooner and if you do see your dog looking rather agitated then you should check this area first! After finding a possible tick in this area you shouldn’t stop there, many ticks live in large groups and will attach to the same host in different locations too. Gently start from the head and work your way to their tail, common signs can be red areas on the skin or small bumps on their coat as the ticks bite may cause swelling on their skin. Don’t forget to check underneath their armpits, behind their ears and tail too, ticks can be very good at hiding as their main goal is to stay attached for as long as possible to their host.
Note: Be careful not to squeeze the tick, this can cause the stomach contents of the tick to enter your dog’s body, this is the main cause of infections!
My dog has a long coat, arghhhh……
If you own a long haired dog checking their coat can be a little more difficult, however it isn’t impossible. A great way to part the hair during your “nose to tail” check is to use a hair dryer to help part the hair and to use a comb to gently help you visually inspect all areas. With using only the COLD setting on the hair dryer and also set on the lowest speed this will make your inspection a little easier and more precise.
Acting FAST to prevent the risk of disease….
Ticks are fast at working and causing havoc to your dog’s health. It is essential to remove a tick with the first 24 hours to prevent to risk of the disease transmission. Don’t worry with your daily dog walk coat check you should be able to remove the tick within the first 1-2 hours of them attaching greatly reducing the risk of any infection.
Stay calm & composed….
We all know it can be very worrying for any dog owner for when they first spot a tick due to the known health risks associated with these parasites. However it is vital that you stay calm during the whole process, dogs can easily read their humans feelings and you don’t want them to worry too. Asking them to sit for a long period of time can also cause your dog to wonder “what’s going on”. Why not keep their mind at rest and away from you poking around their fur, we recommend giving them their favourite treat or toy to enjoy while you quickly give them the once over.
Keeping yourself safe….
Similar to inspecting any infection on both dogs and humans, it is essential to keep clean to avoid the risk of spreading any infection. For ticks, this can be achieved by wearing latex gloves and by not touching yourself with the gloves after touching a tick. As soon as you have removed the tick you should then remove your gloves and dispose of accordingly.
Have you tried the rubbing technique first?
As crazy as it may sound, a simple rubbing motion of the tick can sometimes be enough for them to feel threatened and to detach quickly. While taking great care not to push down on the tick and whilst using only 1 finger (latex glove protected) try gently rubbing the tick in a circular motion for around 1 minute. Although this move is not guaranteed to remove them, it sure is the most simple and quickest action you can take. As soon as the tick falls off be sure to pick it up immediately and place in a freezer bag or sealed jar for you to dispose of without them going back into hiding.
It’s time to “Twist & Turn”
There are many tick removing tools available from reputable pet stores such as the Tick Twister by O'Tom . These nifty affordable gadgets are a lot easier use than the conventional bathroom tweezer which many dog owners have used in previous years. Their unique design offers an effortless task of removing these unwanted parasites. By swooping this tool underneath the tick, you only have gently turn and softly pull the tick away from your dog’s skin. It should be noted however not to pull too hard or quickly as this can cause the head of the tick to stay attached and embed into the skin.
Note: We strongly advise against using other means of action (many of which we have witnessed being discussed in dog forums) such as fire, nail polish or Vaseline as these can be harmful to your dog and very dangerous!
Time to dispose of the tick….
Woohoo! The tick has been removed, job done?......not exactly. It’s time to finish the job by disposing of this tick once and for all, you now have two options on how to do this. The quick option is to flush it down the loo, after all your definitely don’t want to put it in your bin as they can climb back out and live in your home!
The downside of the first technique is you then can’t test the tick for any traces of disease. If you want to be certain your dog has not been infected with any disease it is advised you pop the tick into a sealed jar and take it down to your local vet along with your dog too. The vet will check your dog and also send the tick away for further testing to check if they carry any disease which may have affected your dog.
Be sure to clean the infected area….
Finally after removing your unwanted co-pilot it’s time to clean the infected area. We advise using a pet friendly antiseptic which can be purchased directly from your local vet without prescription. Simply apply this directly to the area and clean with a cotton ball to remove any leftover residue. After use please be sure to dispose of the cotton ball and not to reuse!
Let’s get back to comforting your favourite companion…
Now it’s time to comfort your dog, after all it hasn’t been a fun end to an afternoon but you can change that! Why not go out and buy them a new toy or their favourite dog treat, spending the afternoon with them will assure them it all going to fine and after all, who doesn’t love a new toy and chew regardless of the reasons!
This tick may be gone forever but it’s essential to keep your eye out for any future signs of health issues in the day & weeks ahead after the tick removal. If your dog is losing their appetite, has a fever or shows any signs of swollen lymph nodes then you should visit your vet straight away, these can be signs of an infection caused by your recent parasite visitor. Your vet may give you the all clear after a quick 5 minute visit though it’s best to stay one step ahead and to keep your dog’s health as the number one priority.
Have you tackled a tick recently? Share your tips below on how managed to remove this unwanted visitor or even better let us know of any other tips you may have….Comment below to share your story with all of your fellow dog lovers!