Spring has sprung and tick season is upon us.
Ticks are blood-sucking parasites which belong to the spider family. They are very common in the UK and 43% of pet owners have seen a tick on their dogs. A recent survey showed that, unknown to their owners, almost 15% of dogs are carrying ticks. With tick numbers reported to be on the increase across the UK, due to changes in climate and habitats, they need to be taken seriously.
Ticks-more than just a nuisance
Ticks are parasites which, after attaching to you or your pet, insert their mouthparts through the skin and feed on the host's blood. As well as potentially causing irritation, inflammation and infection at the site of the bite, ticks are second only to mosquitoes in transmitting infectious diseases. But their small size (only a few millimetres long in their unfed state-the size of a sesame seed) mean that they are difficult to spot and many owners are unaware that their pet is infested.
Tick transmitted diseases
Ticks can transmit a range of serious diseases to you or your pet. The most common is Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. Cases of Lyme disease in humans have risen dramatically in the UK in recent years, with an increase of over 300% since 2000 (for further information on human disease visit www.bada-uk.org). With an estimated 1 in 200 dogs carrying an infected tick, the risk to dogs can't be ignored either. The disease can cause signs such as lethargy, fever, lameness and joint swelling. Other diseases include Anaplasmosis, which causes similar signs. On mainland Europe, serious diseases transmitted by ticks include Babesiosis, which causes anaemia, and Ehrlichiosis, so if you are going on holiday with your pet it's important to take appropriate precautions to protect your pet.
Regular treatment against external parasites, such as ticks and fleas, is an important and responsible part of keeping your pets healthy. You can help protect your dog from ticks and Lyme disease by using suitable veterinary advised products. These are designed to protect against the ticks that carry the disease. A vaccination is now also available against Lyme Disease which will provide yearly protection for your dog. Please ask your local branch for more details on parasite prevention and why not book a Travel Clinic with your veterinary nurse if you are planning on taking your pet on holiday this year.