Tick Season is here!
Ticks are more abundant in late spring to early summer, and again during autumn. However, they can be active all year round, even on mild winter days (above 3.5 °C), including when snow is on the ground
What are ticks?
Ticks are small spider-like animals, which are almost invisible to the naked eye. Most of the time you discover a tick after it has bitten the skin and has gorged itself with blood. That is why it is important to check yourself and your pet after you have been in grass, bushes, or on heathland. A tick recognizes its host by vibrations and temperature. They do not have teeth. They attach themselves to humans and animals by embedding their mouth into the skin. Ticks burrow their head under the skin, where they can remain for up to 72 hours to suck blood as nutrition in order to survive.
In recent years, ticks and the diseases they carry have become a rapidly growing problem across the UK.1 In fact, in Great Britain the distribution of ticks is estimated to have expanded by 17% in the last ten years, and the abundance of ticks have increased at 73% of the locations surveyed by the Big Tick Project.2 This growing threat is thought to be due, in large part, to the warm, wet winters that the UK has been experiencing. This means that ticks are able to start their feeding earlier and for longer throughout the year, this longer season of tick activity represents a great danger to us and the pets that we love so much.
Big Tick Project Results
Yew Tree Veterinary Centre, along with other Vets and pet owners across the UK, took part in The Big Tick Project, conducted by MSD and the University of Bristol. This has helped us better understand the distribution of ticks and tick-borne diseases that affect dogs. The full results of the study can be seen at http://www.bigtickproject.co.uk/ticks-in-the-uk/the-results/
Using this interactive map you can see that we are in a high to medium risk area
Why are we so worried about ticks?
47% of dog owners surveyed didn't know that ticks can spread disease to both dogs and humans2
Lyme disease is a serious illness which can be spread from the bite of an infected tick and the incidence of this disease is increasing. The predominant causative agent of Lyme disease in the United Kingdom is the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This bacteria is found in all ticks species. Dogs show several different forms of Lyme Disease, but by far, the most common symptoms are a high temperature, lameness, swelling in the joints, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Although not common, some dogs will develop severe progressive kidney disease.
Ticks can also spread babesiosis (a protozoan parasite). A Babesia infection can have very mild or no symptoms, or it can be very severe. Babesia parasites replicate in and destroy red blood cells. This can lead to jaundice as well as anaemia.
Just because you have never seen a tick on your pet, doesn’t mean they haven’t been bitten by one. Tick’s are flat (like a sesame seed) and lie against the hair growth until they become fat with blood. If they are larvae or nymph ticks (sub-adult), even then they can be too small to spot. Pet owners often find a fat, blood-filled tick in their house after it has had its fill on their pet’s blood and dropped off.
Not every tick is infected and not every bite will transmit disease. However, the longer the tick is allowed to feed, the more likely it is that an infection will result.
A tick-control product can repell, kill or reduce the risk of the tick attaching and takin a blood meal:. The products can work in just one of these ways or in a combination. As some products can take a while to work after application and may kill ticks during the feeding process, it is still advisable to check your pet for ticks and to remove them even if they are dead. Make sure you know how to remove a tick correctly using an O’Tom tick twister or come in for one of our nurse clinics to get, up-to-date official, advice as incorrect tick-removal methods can increase the likelihood of infection.
Tick treatments come in various forms (e.g. tablet, spot-on, spray-on or chemically-treated collar). These may be unsuitable for pregnant or nursing animals and should only be used on healthy animals and under veterinary guidance. Not all products are safe for every type of animal and some may have side- effects. Cases of poisoning may occur when people mistakenly use a product on their pet which is intended for another type of animal. That’s why it is always advisable to talk to us so that we can advise you what the best product for your animal is, taking into account what other pets you may have at home.
It is also important to note that there are combination products available which treat various parasites (such as worms and fleas) but some may not be suitable for the control of ticks. Make sure you have checked which type of parasite a product treats before selecting it and, if you are dissatisfied with a product, talk to us about alternatives.
Training your pet from an early age to let you examine it will help in many areas of its health, such as checking for injuries as well as looking for fleas and ticks.
Lyme Disease Vaccine
We also offer a vaccine for dogs to help prevent Lyme disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. An initial vaccination is followed by a booster vaccine 3 weeks later and then annually.
Please contact us at the surgery if you would like to discuss tick and lyme disease prevention
1: Scharlemann JPW, Johnson PJ, Smith A A, Macdonald DW, Randolph SE: 2008. Trends in Ixodid tick abundance and distribution in Great Britain. Med Vet Entomol, 2 2 : 2 3 8 – 47
2: The research for MSD Animal Health was carried out online by Censuswide between 14/ 04 / 2015 and 17 / 04 / 2015 amongst a panel resulting in 1006 respondents UK dog owners. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Censuswide is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).