Last updated September 2023
Eugh ticks, they are pretty much every pet owner’s worst nightmare, and if you’re scared of spiders even more so as these gruesome creepy crawlies are actually in the spider family! We know that there is a lot to try and remember when it comes to ticks and your dog, so we’ve made a list of the top things you need to know to keep your four-legged friend safe!
If your pet spends time in areas with vegetation that other animals can access, they could be at risk of picking up a tick! If you live in a tick ‘hotspot’ area, such as the South West of England, East Anglia and Scotland then you’ve probably already had several tick encounters…
Once a tick has sought out your dog as their next meal, they will burrow their mouthparts into your dog’s skin and stay firmly attached feeding for several days – sometimes for even over a week!1 They grow in size during this time, and their weight can increase by 120 times.1 You can read more about this in ‘Ticks: Is your pet at risk?’.
Some ticks are a bit fussier about where their meal comes from, but the most common tick of dogs in the UK, Ixodes ricinus, will feed on nearly anything. And yes, this unfortunately includes people! So, while a tick is very unlikely to move from your dog onto you to feed, you are still at risk of bites from these terrible critters.
As if being bitten by a tick isn’t bad enough, they can also transmit some serious diseases as they feed. In the UK, the most significant is Lyme Disease, a bacterial infection which can affect both pets and people after a bite from an infected tick.
Dogs with Lyme Disease may not show any signs, but they can include swollen lymph nodes, fever, and painful joints, and long-term problems can occur if it’s not treated early. If you are concerned about your dog’s health, you should speak to your vet.
There are other diseases that ticks can transmit to our pets too. Babesiosis is a potentially fatal disease in dogs, transmitted by the Dermacentor reticulatus tick. Although not common, cases have been reported in the UK.
Lyme Disease in people
In the UK, it’s estimated that there may be up to 8000 new cases a year of Lyme Disease in people.2 The disease often (but not always) starts with a “bullseye rash”, and symptoms like a fever, headache, and muscle and joint pain can occur a few days or weeks after the tick bite.
If left untreated, serious complications can occur including facial paralysis, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and severe arthritis. You should speak to your GP if you have any concerns as treatment is usually very successful if started early.
Ticks tend to be active from early spring to autumn (March to October), so it is important to regularly check your pet with a quick ‘tick check’ during this time.
Run your hands over your pet’s coat and feel for any new or unusual lumps or bumps. Ticks prefer less hairy areas such as the armpits, groin, face and ears, but they can attach anywhere – so be thorough. The most common tick of UK dogs, Ixodes ricinus, grows to around 1cm after feeding and turns a greyish-brown colour as it fills with blood.
Ticks can easily be mistaken for other types of skin lumps, but the tiny waving legs at the base of the bump usually give them away!
We have a dedicated blog explaining how to remove a tick here. The key thing to remember is not to just yank it out though, as this risks leaving the mouthparts still embedded in your poor pet! Trying to burn the tick off or suffocating it with petroleum jelly are also to be avoided. We recommend using a tick hook and following a few simple steps:
The best way to protect your pet from these disease-carrying beasties is to keep up with regular tick treatment, throughout the tick season. Fipnil Plus is an easy solution to the problem! A simple monthly spot-on, Fipnil Plus is easy to apply, kills both fleas and ticks, and is available for use in both dogs and cats.