Ticked off

A study by scientists at the University of Bristol was published recently, investigating the prevalence of ticks in the UK’s pets. Researchers working for the Big Tick project studied 15,000 dogs across the country that had visited the vet for an unrelated reason. The data showed that 31% of these dogs had at least one tick present, unbeknown to their carers, with the highest number of cases found in the southwest, East Anglia and Scotland. The tick population is rising year-on-year, and whilst higher rates of tick-borne disease are currently found in continental Europe than here in the UK, there is some evidence that the number of cases of Babesiosis (a malaria-like condition transmitted by ticks) is growing in the East of England. It’s more important than ever to check your pets regularly for ticks.


What’s the problem with ticks?

Ticks can transmit bacteria, causing a range of potentially serious conditions such as Lyme disease; so if you spot one it’s important to remove it correctly as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking your pet for ticks after a walk and carefully removing any you find. Using a special tick remover (available online or from your vet), or a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can and pull upwards with a twist, slowly and firmly. Take care not to leave the mouthparts behind as these can become infected.

The signs of Lyme disease in pets can be quite subtle and so your vet will carry out blood tests to accurately diagnose the condition if they suspect your pet may be affected. Treatment is usually a four-week course of suitable antibiotics.

Possible signs of Lyme disease include:

  • Lethargy
  • High temperature
  • Swollen joints
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Reluctance to eat / reduced appetite

Lyme disease can also affect humans and often presents with a characteristic ‘bulls eye’ rash. This is a serious disease and you should seek medical advice if you are concerned. More information can be found here.

What can I do to protect my dog or cat from ticks?

  • We recommend using a monthly tablet or spot on treatment to protect against ticks. It is best to ask your vet for advice as to which is best for your pet as some supermarket-bought spot-on treatments for dogs can be fatal to cats. 
  • Check your pet regularly after they have been outside – ticks live in areas of dense vegetation and long grass and can easily attach themselves to a passing dog or cat.
  • If you are taking your pet abroad on holiday, under the conditions of the Pets Travel Scheme you must ensure your pets are fully protected against ticks whilst you are away.
  • If your pet exhibits any of the symptoms above or becomes generally unwell, please call your vet for advice.

Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team

The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives

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