If you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter a tick, you’ll understand just why they’re so reviled. Literal blood-suckers, the ugly little parasites latch on to the flesh and don’t let go until they’ve drunk their fill. All the while, potentially transmitting infection and disease. They’re not the best company you’ve ever had! But while ticks are an undoubted problem for humans, and they can make you really, really sick – just ask Avril Lavigne about Lyme disease – they’re an even bigger threat to dogs. And other pets. Not because ticks spread more canine disease than human. But because they’re harder to spot under all that fur.

So, with tick season upon us, what do you need to know?

Ticks and Dogs

What is a tick?

With eight legs and bulbous body, ticks look kind of like spiders. Only they’re whitish when hungry and reddish when full of blood. And if you look closely enough, you’ll see that they have a sort of beak instead of the more rounded spider head. They range in size from about 1mm to 1cm.

Where will I find ticks?

Their preferred habitat is grassland, but they’re also common in woodland and can be quite happy in your garden. Although ticks are more prevalent in spring and autumn, you can encounter them all year round. They’re not active creatures; they don’t jump on to their victims, but rather wait for you to brush against them.

How do I know if my pet has a tick?

One of the few good things about ticks is that you can usually find them quite easily. The easiest way to discover if your dog has a tick is to run your hands over their body after every walk. If you feel any lumps or bumps that aren’t usually there, the chances are it’ll be a tick. Pull back the fur and look for whitish or reddish bumps. A dog’s head, neck, ears and feet are the most common areas of attachment.

How can I treat a dog with ticks?

All vets and pet shops will sell tick removal tools. These devices help you to twist the insects off cleanly. The most important thing to remember is not to squash the body of the tick while trying to remove it. This will squeeze the blood back into your pet’s body, further increasing the chance of disease transmission.

What illnesses can dogs get from ticks?

There are a number of different conditions that ticks can trigger in dogs. The most common are fever and lameness. If a dog is left for a period with a large number of ticks attached, they can also become anaemic. Paralysis is also possible. But the two worst conditions are:

  • Lyme disease – a bacterial infection which produces: depression, appetite loss, fever, lameness, painful joints, and swollen lymph nodes. This is most common in the north eastern states, but there have been cases all over America.
  • Babesiosis – symptoms include: depression, pale gums, swollen abdomen, fever, appetite loss and yellowish skin.

How can I protect my dog against ticks?

The easiest way to protect your dog against ticks is to see a veterinarian for a dedicated treatment. This usually involves a regular spot treatment that will either repel ticks, or kill them once they attach. Keeping the grass in your yard short is also a good idea.

Ticks can be a serious problem for both people and their pets. The good news is that unlike a lot of other pests, they don’t make incursions into the home. They don’t sneak in in the night, or force their way through gaps in the woodwork. Unlike fleas, which can quickly take over a home*, a single tick won’t cause an infestation. But they can make you and your pets really, really sick. So be aware and take precautions.

 

*Have a flea problem? Find out how Noosa Pest Management can help.

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