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Ticks

All About Ticks

Ticks are tiny poppy-seed-sized insects that feed on the blood of animals and humans. They lurk in shady moist leaves and tall grass and cling to shrubs and low tree branches. Some ticks carry diseases that they can pass on while they feed.

Symptoms

  • Ticks on fur - look a bit like wart
  • Scab or swelling at bite site
  • Lump if mouthparts of tick are left on body
  • Sometimes no symptoms
  • Scratching due to irritation if part of tick left on body
  • Stiffness or lameness if tick was infected with Lyme Disease
  • Temperature if tick was infected with Lyme Disease
  • Lack of appetite if tick was infected with Lyme Disease

How is the condition caused?

Ticks mostly live on deer and sheep but will feed on humans and pets too. Sometimes ticks carry a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi causing Lyme Borreliosis, better known as Lyme Disease.

Only a small number of ticks carry the disease, but the disease can call a flu-like illness and other long-term problems. A tick generally has to be attached for 24-48 hours before it starts to transmit any disease.

Dogs and cats usually pick up ticks from long grass or woodland. They often get attached to a dog’s head and look like warts. They expand as they feed on the animal’s blood and eventually fall off once they are satiated.

How to deal with ticks

If you see a tick on your dog (or other pet) you should remove it because it can pass on a disease to your dog as it feeds.

To remove the tick you can use a special tick removal tool or pointed tweezers grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible without squeezing its body. You need to make sure you have removed all parts of its body to prevent it from releasing additional saliva into the bite wound.

If no tools are available you can place a single loop of cotton thread around the tick's mouth parts, as close to the skin as possible, then pull gently upwards and outwards.

Do not be tempted to squeeze or twist the body or to burn it off because any stress on the tick can cause it to regurgitate its stomach contents (which may contain infected bacteria) into the bloodstream.

Likewise don't remove it with your fingernail as infection can enter via breaks in your skin (remember ticks can attach to humans too).

After removing a tick cleanse the bite site with antiseptic and wash your hands thoroughly. Given that the tick may be carrying Lyme Disease it is important to remove it from the animal’s body quickly. There are many spot-on formulations, collars and sprays on the market that help prevent and kill ticks. Follow the instructions carefully - ticks have thick bodies so a relatively high level of chemical is needed to penetrate it’s body.

A short course of antibiotics may be given if your animal appears ill.

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