Ticks on dogs and cats

Time to read: 3 mins

What are ticks?

Ticks are not insects, although they can often be mistaken for them. Ticks are classified as arachnids, or relatives of spiders. They range between 1mm to 1cm in length and have 8 legs. Ticks are usually grey or brown in colour and they have tiny pin sized heads that they bury into your pet’s skin to feed from their blood. Ticks can carry diseases, such as Lyme’s disease, and are very good at spreading these diseases from one animal to another.

When might my pet be at risk of ticks?

Pets living or being walked in rural or wooded areas will have increased exposure to ticks which like to live in thick long grass, as it allows them to attach to host animals as they walk by. They are most active as the weather starts to get warmer during the late spring and summer months and they are not fussy which breeds of animals they feed on. However, animals that spend a lot of time outdoors will be more susceptible to ticks.

Checking your pet for ticks

Dogs and cats that spend a lot of time outdoors will be more at risk, but checking your pet carefully on a regular basis will help you prevent a tick infestation from taking root.

Run your hands over your pet’s coat to check for any unusual lumps, and check carefully around the head, feet and ears as these are the preferred locations for most ticks.

What do I do if I spot a tick?

It is best to remove a tick as soon as you spot it. Treat the area with saline and remove the parasite using a pair of tweezers. Ideally, wear rubber or plastic gloves when removing a tick to protect yourself. Ensure that you remove all parts of the tick as it is possible for parts of it to remain embedded in your pet’s skin which would cause infection. The tick’s blood could also be infected with a number of diseases so avoid getting it on yourself or your pet.

If using fine-tipped tweezers:

  • Grasp the tick as close to the host’s skin as possible and pull upwards with steady, even pressure.
  • Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may leave the mouth parts embedded or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids.
  • Do not grasp the tick’s body as this can cause blood to be pushed back into your pet and increase their chances of disease.

 If using a tick hook remover tool:

  • Slide the two prongs of the tick hook either side of the tick’s body until it is secure. Gently turn the tick hook tool either clockwise or anticlockwise and the tick should detach after 2-3 rotations.

Things you should not do:

  • Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.
  • Do not handle the tick with bare hands. Infective agents may enter through breaks in the skin, or through mucous membranes.
  • Do not use petroleum jelly, or freeze / burn the tick, as this will stimulate it to regurgitate its stomach contents, so increasing the chance of infection.

Tick prevention

Tick prevention can be in the form of either a spot-on liquid applied to the back of your pet’s neck, a tablet, or a collar. If you are unsure on which prevention may be best for your pet, take a moment to discuss the best option with your vet.

If you have any concerns with regards to your pet’s health, our team of qualified veterinary nurses is on hand 24/7 via the Scratch & Patch Vet Careline.

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