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How To Protect Your Dog From Ticks: 15 Best Ways To Protect Your Dog & Family

How To Protect Your Dog & Family From Ticks & Fleas

INTRODUCTION

There are few things we enjoy more in life than being outdoors in the sun.  For those of us lucky to share our lives with a loving and loyal dog, we indeed take every opportunity to escape for long walks in parks, wooded areas and along beaches.

As you walk along the wooded dirt tracks and through fields, do you ever consider the dangers lurking in the long grass and overhanging bushes?  The danger I'm referring to are ticks. These small and formidable parasites are waiting for their next victim to brush past them.  Once they have latched onto a new host, then they set about their first meal. 


Ticks pose serious health risks to you, your family and dogs that should never be underestimated.  Indeed, ticks are capable of causing serious and debilitating diseases in various ways, such as Lyme disease in both humans and dogs.  

What are the serious health risks to me and my family?

In the event that you or a member of your family is bitten by an infected tick, there is the real potential to be later diagnosed with Lyme disease.  Generally, Lyme disease occurs when tick bite symptoms are incorrectly diagnosed or left untreated.

Lyme disease is a serious and debilitating chronic illness affecting the central nervous system, heart, skin, and joints.  If left untreated, it can result in arthritis or long-term nerve damage.  Each year thousands of people across the UK are diagnosed with Lyme disease. 

Babesiosis, which until this year was regarded as purely a foreign virus, is now present in the UK.  Babesiosis affects the body’s immune system, causing it to attack and destroy its own red blood cells.  

Perhaps even more alarming, is the fact that there are several additional tick-borne viral infections that can result in encephalitis, meningitis and even death. The number of human cases of Lyme disease is rising. 

Caudwell Lyme Disease Charity surveyed 500 Lyme disease sufferers, and identified that 75% of those surveyed were too sick to return to work. 

What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Many people with early symptoms of Lyme disease develop a circular (often bullseye shaped) red skin rash around the tick bite area.  The rash can take up to 3 months to appear and is usually visible for several weeks.  However, in most cases, the rash will appear within the first 4 weeks of being bitten.  Typically, the skin will look red with the edges of the rash feeling slightly raised.

 

However, not everyone with Lyme disease will develop a visible rash. In some cases, those bitten by a tick will show only flu-like symptoms (in the early stages), including:

  • High temperature
  • Shivers
  • Headaches
  • Aching muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
Should you find any new lumps and bumps about your body, then it is worth mentioning these to yous doctor, just to be on the safe side.  

What are ticks?

Ticks are small parasites that attach to people and animals (known as hosts), and feed on their blood.  When considering the spread of infectious disease to people and animals, we find that ticks are only second to mosquitoes. Ticks are masters of survival.  Indeed, adult ticks are known to survive for up to 3 years without a blood meal.    

What do ticks look like?

There are 20 tick species commonly found in the UK.  The World Health Organisation (WHO), estimates that globally there are approximately 800 species of tick.  These 800 species can be split into two main groups:

  • Hard ticks (Ixodidae), comprising of around 650 species.
  • Soft ticks (Argasidae), comprising of around 150 species. 

How can I tell if my dog has ticks?

When you return from a walk check your dog(s) thoroughly for ticks. One way to do this is to move your hands over your dog's body from head to tail. Make sure you cover all of your dog's body - ticks are experts at hiding. 

It is important that you give your dog a good visual examination, particularly around the well known tick 'hot spots' listed below.  Take care not to leave any areas unchecked.  When moving your hands across your dog, pay attention to any unusual small lumps.   

WHAT ARE THE SERIOUS HEALTH RISKS TO MY DOG

Ticks are capable of causing many diseases in dogs and other pets. The disease which people are most familiar with is Lyme disease. Perhaps a less well known disease is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Ian Wright (Veterinary Surgeon and Head of the European Scientific Counsel of Companion Animal Parasites) states:

"Dogs that do develop Lyme disease can be severely affected with acute arthritis in one or more joints with associated lameness, joint swelling and heat. Other acute signs may follow, including fever, anorexia, lethargy and lymphadenopathy. The acute form is often transient with relapses occurring."

Tick hot spots

  • Ears

  • Head

  • Neck

  • Groin

  • Armpits

  • Feet

Ticks love to hide inside ears.  If your dog is shaking its head a lot, use a torch to carefully and gently look inside both ears. Remember ticks can be small, so take your time when checking.  If you are not sure, contact your vet for help.  Do not be shy to contact your vet when you need advice - your dog's health may depend on it. 

When are ticks active?

Ticks are commonly more active during spring and summer months. However, ticks will be present and lying in wait all year round for you and your dog to brush past them.  Think of them as tiny blood sucking ambush specialists.

How can I prevent my dog from getting ticks?

Ticks are unable to jump. Also, they are not known to launch themselves from trees onto unsuspecting animals/hosts, as many people believe. Rather, ticks transfer onto hosts when dogs or other animals walk through long grass and bushes.  Brushing past a tick provides the perfect opportunity for the tick to board their new host.

What do I do if I find a tick on my dog?

It is most important that you do not panic and rush into thinking that you have to rip the tick from your dog. This could be extremely painful for your dog.

Yes, ticks are dangerous for any age of dog, and indeed any breed, but approaching the situation in a cool, calm manner is important.  Ticks must be removed carefully and slowly at all times, otherwise there is a real risk of embedded mouth parts being left inside your dogs skin. Should this happen, there will be a heightened risk of the bite area becoming inflamed and infected.  

Also, should a tick become stressed from being poked, burnt with a flame, or covered in Vaseline to suffocate it, then the tick may regurgitate their bloody meal back inside their host. This blood may well carry disease, which the tick is carrying from a previous infected host animal. The potential for disease transmission to your dog is high.

You may wish to consult your Vet to discuss the safest and most effective way to remove a tick. Without question, your dog's health and welfare is of paramount importance! But even with the best intentions in the world, a dog owner may cause unnecessary suffering to their dog when attempting to remove a tick. This might occur when the owner adopts the wrong technique when removing the tick.

How do I remove a tick safely from my dog?

  1. Use a specifically designed tick pick remover (see below). 
  2. Make contact with the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  3. Slowly pull upwards, taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick.
  4. Dispose of the tick appropriately. 
  5. Clean the tick bite area with an antiseptic wipe or soap and water.

Tick Pick Remover (click link)

Tick Pick Remover Long Paws 

 15 Ways to Keep Your Family & Dogs Safe

  1. Carry a Tick Pick Remover and some antiseptic wipes to clean the area of a tick bite once the tick is removed. Also consult your vet.
  2. Try to walk in the centre of paths and where possible avoid over-hanging vegetation. These are ideal hunting grounds for ticks.
  3. If you notice your dog shaking its head and scratching its ears, then stop and check for ticks. 
  4. Deter ticks from your garden by removing leaf litter, keeping grass short and overhanging vegetation cut back.
  5. Use tick control products to help keep your dog tick free. See the section on tick control products below.
  6. Check pet accessories and toys that are used or stored outdoors. 
  7. Groom pets thoroughly: make sure you brush against, as well as with, the hair growth to identify embedded ticks. Also, check inside ears, around eyes, on the chin and around the muzzle. Paws (in between pads and toes) are perfect hiding places for ticks. 
  8. Remove outer clothing before entering your home. Tests have proven that ticks can survive a full wash cycle in a washing machine and also a short period of time in a hot dryer.
  9. Regularly review Government and other reputable tick websites for information on reported increases of tick bite cases in your local area.
  10. Try to avoid or limit your time spent walking your dog through known tick hotspots.
  11. On returning from a walk, ask a friend or family member to check the clothing you are wearing for ticks before entering your home.
  12. Use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin.
  13. Ensure pant legs are tucked into your socks. 
  14. Wear light coloured clothing to help identify ticks that have latched onto you.
  15. Ticks are vulnerable to drying out, so give your wet clothes a spin in a hot dryer for 5 mins to kill them.    

Tick control products

Presented below are a few tick control products merely as examples of the types of products available on the market. Monty's Dog Store is not endorsing these products, nor are we receiving payment for advertising these products.  We are simply providing you with some helpful information to help you make an informed choice.

It is important to note, that if you are in any doubt as to the correct product to purchase for your dog, then we strongly recommend that you consult your Vet for advice, prior to purchasing a tick control product.  

VetUK: Advantix Flea & Tick Treatment (click link)

Advantix for Extra Large Dogs 4.0 ml

Pets at Home: Seresto Flea and Tick Control Large Dog Collar (click link)

Seresto Flea and Tick Control Large Dog Collar

Pets at Home: Frontline Spot On Flea and Tick Treatment (click link)

In Conclusion

Although the aim of this article is provide you with information setting out the dangers associated with ticks, and how to keep your dog safe and healthy, please do not let this information put you off enjoying your normal dog walking routine.

Provided you follow the information available, then your dog should remain free from the health risks presented by ticks.

Thoroughly checking your dog all over after a walk by physically using your hands and also performing a visual inspection, from nose to tail, on top and below, will be highly effective in keeping your dog tick free, healthy and happy. Remember to pay particular attention to the areas known as tick 'hot spots', as mentioned above. 

We would be delighted to receive your feedback in the comments section below. Let us know if you found the article helpful. Also, share with us your ideas for articles that you would like to see on Monty's Dog Store.  We are always looking to engage with dog owners and provide detailed helpful advice to help you keep your dog happy, healthy and stimulated.

Thank you and take care. 

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