It's Tick Time!

Tick infestations are usually seasonal in the UK between March and June, and again from August to November, but there is still a risk of picking them up all year round. There are over 12 species of ticks present in the UK. Once the temp goes over 8-10 degrees, the ticks come out.

Ticks sit on the end of grass blades and detect carbon dioxide and heat of the passing host. They then hold on to fur as the host brushes through the long grass. If the skin is suitable, the tick will bury its mouthparts under the surface host’s skin, which is usually over the host’s face and ears, chest and front legs. As cats are regular self-groomers, they can sometimes be quick to groom them out, but can still be visible in areas that they miss, eg inside the ear flaps. You can distinguish a tick from a mass or wart by looking at the base of the tick to just see a narrow attachment and the parasite’s legs above the skin.

The host animal will detect the presence of the tick in the first few hours after attachment and put up an immune defence, clotting the blood which the tick is feeding from which can result in areas of swelling and localised pain. The tick counteracts the host’s clotting defence by releasing saliva with a number of anticoagulants and proteins, and also possible infectious organisms. This is why it is important to remove or kill the tick with anti-parasitic treatment within approximately 24-48 hrs of initial feeding. However, tick removal should not be delayed if you spot a tick before that time. 

Tick removers are by far the safest and easiest equipment to use to remove ticks and are relatively inexpensive to purchase. Please do not use tweezers as putting pressure on the tick’s body can release saliva into your animal increasing the risk of spread of any disease they may carry. Pulling on the tick can also risk leaving the mouthpart in the skin, causing an abscess to develop in time.

We are very happy to remove any ticks from your pet, so do let us know if you are concerned.

Diseases

Babesia is parasite that invades mainly dogs (and rarely cats’) red blood cells, replicates inside those cells, then bursts out ready to infect other cells. This process, along with the host’s immune system trying to destroy infected cells causes anaemia through the lack of working red blood cells. The animal becomes jaundiced, anorexic, produces red urine, and can develop kidney failure. The disease can be fatal. Treatment involves a combination of medications for a number of weeks. This disease does not spread to humans.

Ticks are also well known for playing a part in the transmission of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that causes Lyme disease that affects both dogs, humans and in rare cases, cats. In dogs, the clinical signs can range from having general discomfort, fever, or lameness; to swollen lymph nodes, painful swollen joints and kidney disease. As there is no specific clinical signs to diagnose Lyme disease, it can be hard to recognise; treatment is with a long course of antibiotic and pain relief medications.