Checking for ticks should be a routine

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For the last year Alnorthumbria Vets has been taking part in the Big Tick Project, run by scientists at the University of Bristol.

It has become the largest veterinary study of ticks and tick-borne disease in the UK, if not worldwide.

In addition to the potential for tick mapping and greater understanding about what is perceived to be a rise in the risks to dogs and people from Lyme Disease, the emergence in four dogs in Essex of babesiosis, a life-threatening disease transmitted to dogs by infected ticks usually found in Europe, has highlighted the need for a major investigation on the scale of the Big Tick Project.

Symptoms of babesiosis can range from mild to severe and include lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, anaemia, pale gums, enlarged abdomen, weight loss and jaundice. If your dog has ticks and you are concerned for its health contact your vet immediately.

To detect ticks check your pet’s skin on its head first (around the mouth and ears, behind ears and on its neck), then work your way down its forelegs and the rest of its body, searching for any lumps. Check under the armpits of your dog. Take your time on long-haired breeds. Ticks can find ways behind or inside the ears of breeds such as spaniels.

If you find a lump part the hair and look at it more closely, with the help of a magnifying glass if necessary. The place where the tick attaches may or may not be painful and there may be skin swelling. Close scrutiny can reveal the tick’s legs at the level of the skin.

When attempting to remove a tick avoid handling the parasite directly. Wear gloves and dispose of ticks hygienically so they cannot re-attach themselves or lay eggs.

The aim is to remove the whole tick, including its mouthparts, without squeezing its body. Use a specially designed hook or scoop with a narrow slot that traps the tick’s mouthparts. Slide the hook under the tick at skin level so as to grip its head. Ensure the hook is not entangled. Scoop out the tick – rotating the hook around its head may help dislodge the mouthparts before removal. Flush the tick down the lavatory or sink with hot water.

Do not attempt to burn, cut or pull the tick off with your fingers. Buy a tick removal tool and keep it in your pet first aid box. If in doubt, take your pet to the vet.

To reduce the risk associated with ticks on dogs there are a number of innovative and convenient treatments that are only available on prescription.

The options available to protect dogs against ticks include spot-ons, sprays, collars and oral chewable formulations.

If you are worried about removing a tick, just give us a call. You can also pop into any of our eight small animal surgeries to chat about the treatments available to help protect your dog. See www.alnorthumbriavets.co.uk