How to protect your dog from ticks and Lyme disease

As Springtime approaches, it’s important for dog owners to be aware of the increased risk of Lyme disease in dogs; and the danger of your best furry friend being bitten by ticks. To make sure you’re clued up and well prepared to protect your dog, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about those pesky ticks, including how to spot, remove, and treat them. 


What are ticks?


Ticks are small, bug-like parasites that bite into the skin and suck the blood of humans and animals. They are initially small in size, but as they take in more blood, ticks grow and swell to eventually become the size of a small pea or a marble. At this stage, the tick can turn from a reddish-brown/black colour to a greenish-blue; and also become much easier to spot, and therefore remove. 

 

 

When are ticks active?


Ticks are active throughout the year, but they are particularly more active and easier to spot between the Spring and Autumn seasons. So as we begin to enter the Spring months, make sure you regularly check your dog for tick bites after taking them for walkies. 



Where do ticks live? 


Ticks typically live in areas of long grass, fields, and woodlands. They’re attracted to animals such as deer, cattle, sheep etc. and so are more commonly found in areas where these animals are gathered. 

 

 


How do ticks bite pets? 

 

Unlike fleas, ticks don’t jump onto you or your dog, but instead climb or drop onto them as they brush past whatever the tick is sitting on. Ticks typically feed on warm, moist areas of the body, such as:

  • Inside and around the ears 
  • Under the legs
  • Neck
  • Feet

How to tell if your dog has been bitten by a tick 


After feeding, ticks are big enough to spot and feel like a small bump on your pet’s skin. Run your hands over your dog’s body when you get back from a walk to check for them. 

 

How do you remove ticks? 


Ideally, you should ask for a medical professional to remove a tick, particularly as they could be carrying Lyme disease. If you’re unable to do this, the best way to remove a tick from your dog is to twist them off with a pair of tweezers or if you have one, a designated tick remover. You can buy a tick removal tool from your local pet shop, vets, or online. 

 

 

When removing a tick, it’s important to make sure you don’t squeeze the tick’s body or leave the end in – as this could lead to an infection.

If using a tick remover:

  • Locate the tick, carefully part your dog’s fur so you can get to it. 
  • Gently insert/push it under the tick
  • Once you have a good grasp of the tick, rotate it in 360 degrees or several times until the tick comes loose. 
  • Inspect the area of your dog’s skin you removed the tick from and make sure nothing is left. 
  • Dispose of the tick by submerging it in alcohol or putting it in a tissue and flushing it down the toilet.

It’s always best to consult your vet if you’re not sure – they’ll be happy to show you the correct tick removal method.

 

When removing a tick, never:

  • Use chemicals to try and kill the tick as this is unlikely to remove the whole of the tick, and could cause your dog more harm. 
  • Use your fingers to crush a tick.


How do you prevent your dog from getting ticks?


If you often take your dog for a walk through woodlands, fields or areas with long grass, it’s advised you use a tick treatment that will either kill or repel ticks once they attach themselves to your pet. These treatments come in tablets, collars and spot on treatments – it’s best to seek the advice of your vet to establish which one is the most suitable for your dog. 

 

 

Why should I protect my dog against ticks? 


The longer the tick is attached to your dog, the greater the risk of them developing a harmful disease. Ticks can transmit infections and microbes from one animal/human to another, which makes them potentially quite dangerous for your pet. A common disease caused by ticks is Lymes disease, which can be particularly harmful to our canine friends. 

 

Lyme disease in dogs 


Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection that only causes symptoms in 5-10% of dogs. If your dog is showing any of the below signs, it’s advised you visit your vet straight away: 

  • Fever 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Swollen/painful joints 
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Lethargy 
  • Depression

If detected early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, so it’s the best course of action would be to contact your vet if you think your dog may have contracted the infection – they’ll then be able to run tests to potentially diagnose the disease and treat it accordingly. 

 

First Aid for Pets

 

To find out more about protecting your pet from infection, disease, and for general health advice for your pet, visit First Aid for Pets. Owned by Emma Hammett, a qualified nurse and expert First Aid Trainer, First Aid For Pets has a wealth of information for pet first aid, including practical and online courses that equip dog owners with the necessary skills they need to help their pet in a medical emergency. 


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