The flowers are blooming, the days are longer, and the air feels a bit warmer – who doesn’t love spring!? However, it has one downside: tick season has started, and will last until the end of autumn.
That being said, animals can pick up ticks all year round, so it’s always good to be aware of how we can keep our precious pets safe, even outside of tick season.
Generally, dogs and outdoor cats are the pets that most frequently pick up ticks, as they’re leaving the safety of the house and back garden. Similarly, horses are prone to collecting them.
But how much of a problem really are ticks? If left untreated or removed incorrectly, ticks can cause infections that require antibiotic treatment. They can also pass on diseases if they are carrying them, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis, which have long-lasting effects.
So how do we stay safe? Know where they are:
- In the UK, ticks are most common in the South West, but it’s possible to come across them anywhere in the country.
- Environments like woodland and long grass are most likely to be tick infested. Therefore, when in these areas, always stay on the path. Even steering clear of overhanging branches and greenery can help prevent collecting an unwanted hitchhiker.
- Similarly, gardens can house ticks if they have long grass, lots of plants, or piles of leaves – environments where ticks thrive.
When you return home from a walk, or your cat comes inside, check their body for ticks. Be aware that it’s often easier to feel a tick than to see one, so feeling all over their bodies for any unusual bumps (being careful not to accidentally dislodge one) and brushing against the direction of hair growth can help to find ticks that have embedded themselves out of sight. A tick may even have nestled itself between their toes or inside their ears, so be sure to check thoroughly.
Even before your animals go out, you can do something to protect them. Many tick prevention medications and specific tick repellents are available, and even something as simple as pet-friendly insect repellent can provide a measure of protection.
If You Find a Tick on Your Pet
First of all, what should you not do? Our first instinct may be to pull or squeeze the tick, but any of these actions – even just prodding it – can cause it to regurgitate its stomach’s contents back into your pet, which we don’t want to happen! Further, pulling a tick will leave its head and mouth inside your pet’s body. This usually leads to a serious infection and may have to be surgically removed.
So how do we get them out safely? The key is twisting. Many tick-removing tools exist for this express purpose; however the method can be carried out with a simple pair of tweezers if done carefully enough. Grabbing the head (not the body!) as close to your pet’s skin as possible, gently twist it around a few times until you feel it loosen, then it should come away from the skin without any resistance. Afterwards, clean the bite area thoroughly. If the tick is incorrectly removed – with its head and mouth still inside your pet – contact your vet immediately for advice.
If a tick has been spotted and removed early enough, your pet should be just fine! However, keep an eye on the area of the bite for signs of infection. Also watch for any signs of illness, such as:
- Stiff/swollen joints
If your pet is displaying these symptoms, contact your vet for advice, as they may have an infection or disease and require treatment.
Our last tip – be aware that you can get a tick too! Keep your legs and feet covered in areas where ticks are found, and always check yourself before you go back inside, to avoid bringing them into the home if at all possible.
For more information, check out these other tick-related blogs:
- A Dog Walker’s Guide to Avoiding Ticks
- TICKS: Everything You Need to Know
- Removing Ticks from Your Dog
If we take heed of these precautions, we can all hopefully have a tick free summer! Enjoy!