What are ticks?
Ticks are a rather unpleasant parasite that latch onto bodies and live off the blood of mammals, dogs, cats and humans. Ticks are more active in the summer months from March to October and are typically found in tall grass, plants and wooded areas.
Ticks like areas where there is little to no hair, they climb on to skin and attach their mouth to skin to start their blood sucking meal. Their body starts to fill with blood and won’t let go until their meal is complete. Adult females can swell and become larger than their original size. Male ticks do not swell as much. If a tick goes unnoticed, it can feed for up to 7 days before dropping off to find another innocent victim.
Are ticks dangerous? Tick Diseases
Not all ticks carry diseases, however you should always be wary when a tick is involved. The sooner a tick is found and removed, the lower the risk of disease. The symptoms of most tick-borne diseases include fever, tiredness, weakness, joint swelling and anaemia. Some ticks may even cause temporary paralysis. Symptoms may take days, weeks or even months to appear.
The most common disease that most people are aware of is Lyme disease. The symptoms of the disease are: fever, arthritis and swelling of joints, swollen lymph nodes, lameness, lethargy and loss of appetite. Lyme disease cannot be transmitted from an infected dog to a human, but the same tick can infect other dogs and humans.
Which areas should I check after taking my dog out for a walk?
When taking your dog out for walks, you should always check your dog for ticks. Run your fingers through the dog’s body and check for any bumps or swollen areas. check torso, under dog’s armpits, between toes, ears, face and chin.
How to safely remove a tick
You should never scrape, squeeze or crush a tick. This is because their head may be left embedded in your skin. The tick may also regurgitate any infected contents from its stomach into the affected area.
There are special tick tools that you could use to remove these parasites - never attempt to remove ticks with your fingernails as any infection may enter any breaks in your skin. Always wear gloves. Here's a tick tool you can purchase.
If you do not have a tick removal tool you can safely remove a tick by using a cotton thread. Tie a loop of cotton around the tick’s body - as close to the skin as possible, then pull outwards without twisting the cotton thread. You can also remove a tick by using tweezers. Again you will need to grab the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Pull outwards without twisting.
Always ensure that the whole tick is removed without leaving the head behind. There are plenty of online videos on how to remove a tick, click to view.
After removing a tick, clean the affected area with an antiseptic, wash your hands and clean the tick tool/tweezers. Keep checking the area to see whether it’s still irritated or infected, watch for symptoms and if unsure book an appointment with your vet.