Ticks on dogs: know your enemy
Learn more about ticks on dogs, why they’re a problem, where your dog might pick them up and how to protect your pet.
There are few better places to enjoy a stroll with your dog than the park. Whilst we’re prepared for the post-walk muddy paws and messy coat, the one thing we don’t want to deal with afterwards is a tick.
Ticks are commonly found in grassy areas across the UK. With their eight legs, they can resemble spiders but ticks have a nasty bite.
As blood-sucking parasites, ticks require a host to feed on in order to live. They use their very strong, sharp mouths to bite into animal (or human) skin where they’ll stay latched on, drinking blood until they’re fully engorged.
Ticks vary in size. They are hard to spot in the wild when unfed because they are the size of a sesame seed. But when they start feeding on an animal, they get larger as they fill with blood, making them easier to spot.
Find out more on what ticks look like on a dog.
Ticks carry many infections, including Lyme disease and canine babesiosis. Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection which can affect both dogs and people in the UK.
Babesiosis is less common in UK dogs, but cases have been reported in certain areas of the U.K.. Dogs travelling abroad to places including Europe, Africa and Asia are also at risk.
Both of these diseases can cause a range of symptoms, and can lead to serious health problems if left untreated – babesiosis can even prove fatal. If you suspect your dog may be unwell then always have them checked over by your vet.
A tick’s favourite habitat includes woodland, grassland and even your garden, if you live in an area with lots of wildlife.
Adult ticks hang on to blades of grass or other vegetation, waiting to grasp onto a passing animal or human. They are often found where sheep and deer graze, so be sure to check your dog for ticks after going for walks in these areas.
Although tick season is said to be in spring and autumn when ticks in dogs are most prevalent, ticks can be active throughout the year.
Dogs in the UK are at risk from three main types of tick:
- the sheep or deer tick (Ixodes ricinus)
- the hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus)
- the meadow tick or ornate cow tick (Dermacentor reticulatus)
The best way to protect your pet and stop ticks on dogs transmitting diseases is to use an effective anti-tick treatment.
Unless you find a tick on your dog, you might not know they’ve been bitten. Unlike the tell-tale scratching triggered by flea bites, tick bites don’t itch and you may not realise any nasty after effects of the tick bite until your dog displays signs of illness.
- You’ve found a small bump on your dog’s skin
First, it’s important to check your dog for ticks after walking through grassy areas, so you can remove them as early as possible to help prevent your dog becoming ill.
When you’re back from your walk, stroke or groom your dog while feeling for any small bumps. If you find something, part the dog’s fur and take a closer look. If you discover a hard round, cream/brown parasite, it’s likely a tick.
- Your dog is shaking their head
Ticks like to attach themselves to a dog’s head, neck, feet and ears, including right inside the ear canal. Your dog will try to rid themselves of any ear irritation, such as that caused by a tick, by shaking their head.
If you notice this behaviour in your dog, use a torch to carefully look for ticks inside the ear. You may want to visit your veterinary practice to remove it from this sensitive area, or you can remove the tick from your dog’s ear yourself.
- Your dog is showing signs of a fever
Dogs bitten by ticks may sometimes show signs of a fever, which include:
- loss of appetite
- unusual panting
These signs can pass after 24 hours, or they may last for days or weeks. Although a fever can be a sign of a number of illnesses, you should check your dog for ticks and book an appointment with your vet.
Find out more about the symptoms of ticks in dogs.
When ticks attach to a host they don’t just bite, they bury their mouthparts into the skin, which makes it difficult to remove them in one go. Special tick hooks, or tick twisters, are now available, which are designed to slide under the tick’s head, so once it’s twisted the parasite pops out whole.
When you’re removing a tick, remember to have a sealed container on hand that you can put the tick in and dispose of it safely.
Normal tweezers are not recommended, as they risk removing only the tick’s body, leaving its head and mouthparts still attached which can result in an infection.
Using a treatment on your dog which repels and kills ticks is a great way to prevent them from biting and passing on any nasty diseases.
Seresto Flea and Tick Control Collar works to repel and kill ticks for up to eight months – the longest lasting flea and tick protection available.
Kills and repels ticks through contact
The active ingredients are slowly released by the collar and carried across the surface of the body by natural oils on the dog’s skin and fur, so ticks don’t need to bite for the active ingredients to work.
Easy to use and long-acting
Simply fit the collar on your dog to protect them from ticks for up to eight months, meaning you don’t need to remember to reapply each month.
It’s the convenient option
There’s no mess, no grease and no smell.
Other treatment options are available. Speak to your vet about preventative products against ticks, and help keep your dog protected.
Humans are also attractive meals for ticks and dog owners may be at higher risk of being bitten because they tend to walk through tick habitats with their furry friends.
If you are bitten by a tick, you’re at risk of contracting Lyme disease, cases of which have increased and spread further across the UK in recent years. Babesiosis is also a disease humans can be infected with, although this is a different species to that which affects dogs, and cases are much rarer.
When you go out walking in grassy areas or woodland:
- cover up – wear long-sleeved tops and tuck trousers into socks to stop ticks reaching your skin.
- protect yourself – use a suitable repellent before setting out on your walk.
- do your own tick check – look over your clothes for ticks and brush them off in a safe area away from your dog if you find any. You may also wish to check your skin to be completely safe.
Did you know…
Ticks are actually arachnids? Which means they're closely related to spiders and scorpions.
Find out more information about the options for tick protection.