Ticks

ixodesricinus

Ticks are small parasites that are related to spiders and mites, they survive by feeding on the blood of different animal hosts including humans if they get the opportunity. There are many tick species in the UK but the ones that commonly cause problems by feeding off our pets are the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus) and the hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus).

Ticks are mostly found in areas with long grasses, in woodlands or in heathland but they can be found in gardens if they have been transported by wild animals during their larval or nymph stages. They can attach anywhere on the animal’s body but are usually found around the head, neck and ears. Owners often mistake ticks for wart-like growths on their pets because of their size and colour.

Ticks locations

Tick facts

  • Ticks transfer saliva into their host and remove blood as they feed.
  • The tick body swells up as it becomes engorged with blood.
  • Ticks are usually active in the spring, summer and autumn months.
  • Larval ticks have 6 legs and are so small they look like specks of dirt.
  • Nymph ticks have 8 legs and are about the size of a poppy seed, and are the most likely stage to bite humans.
  • Adult ticks also have 8 legs. The female is much larger than the male and grows to about pea-size when fully engorged with blood.
  • Ticks will happily feed off humans if there are no other convenient food sources available.
  • Never be tempted just to brush or pull off the tick – any mouth parts left in your pet’s skin may become infected, resulting in an abscess.
  • Ticks can transmit many diseases through their saliva including Lyme Disease in the UK and Erlichiosis and Babesiosis in other countries.
  • Ticks can carry several different infections at the same time.
  • Localised infection may occur at the site of attachment without causing other symptoms in the animal’s body
  • If an animal has a really heavy tick infestation it could become anaemic

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Tick Life Cycle

  1. Larval ticks hatch from the eggs and the following spring or autumn they crawl onto grass stems and seek out small rodent hosts using the sensory organs on their front legs. The larvae feed for several days before dropping off into the environment to moult into nymphs (In the UK this stage usually takes a year to complete)
  2. Nymph ticks seek out slightly larger hosts this time – usually rabbits, and feed for several days before dropping off into the environment to moult into adult ticks (Again, taking about a year)
  3. Adult ticks climb up onto taller vegetation to seek out a host. They usually feed off larger animals such as sheep, deer, dogs and cats. The adult female feeds for up to two weeks and then drops off into the environment and can lay several thousand eggs before dying.
  4. The whole life cycle can take up to 3 years to complete in the UK.

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Common Ticks found on dogs and cats in the UK

Ixodes Ricinus

  • Also known as the sheep tick, castor bean tick or deer tick. Despite its name it will feed on any mammals or birds and lizards.
  • Its preferred hosts for the larval and nymph stages are small animals (rodents then rabbits and birds) and for the adults, large animals such as sheep and deer on which it has the greatest reproductive success.
  • It is the most common tick to be found feeding on dogs and humans in it’s nymph and adult stages. This is likely due to the fact that it searches for a host by climbing up to the top of tall vegetation, so passing pets are easy targets.
  • It only feeds once at each developmental stage.

Ixodes Hexagonus

  • Known as the hedgehog tick.
  • It is often the most common tick found on cats and the second most common tick on dogs.
  • The larvae are mainly found on hedgehogs (hence the name) and also other smallish mammals that have nests/dens such as stoats, weasels, foxes and badgers.
  • Pets are accidental hosts because hedgehogs commonly live in parks and gardens

How to remove a tick from your pet

We recommend that this is done using a specially designed ‘tick hook’ (pictured), these are readily available from veterinary practices, pet shops and on-line. If you are unsure how to use one, bring your pet to the practice and one of our nurses can show you how it’s done.

tick_hook

 

How NOT to remove Ticks

If any part of the tick is left in your pet’s skin it may cause infection, abscess or the transmission of disease. In order to avoid this

  • DO NOT pull the tick off your pet, using fingers or tweezers
  • DO NOT burn the tick off your pet;  you could seriously injure your pet.
  • DO NOT use alcohol  on the tick; It wont make the tick drop off and we feel that alcohol has better uses!
  • DO NOT use Vaseline; whilst it  will eventually smother the tick, it will take 24-48 hours to work.

Tick Prevention

Fortunately there are now several really great products that repel ticks (and fleas) available for your dog and cat. These products are only available from your veterinary practice or can be obtained from a pharmacy if you have a prescription from your vet.

Castle Vets only recommend tick products that actually repel the ticks and prevent them from attaching to your pet for a meal. It is really important that you check any products and read the labelling carefully before you buy them. Most products that state they are for treating ticks, only kill the tick AFTER it has attached to your pet and drank blood.

WARNING – Never use dog flea or tick products on cats. The active ingredient used in some dog products is highly toxic to cats and can cause seizures and death

Please contact us at the practice if you would like any advice on parasite prevention or to make an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses

Castle Vets 0118 9574488

Tick Advice Video

For more information on ticks and parasites you can visit http://www.itsajungle.co.uk/

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