If your pup is anything like these Scallywags, they’ll no doubt love a good romp in the long grass. But with the warmer weather upon us, so too is the increased risk of them picking up a tick … and your cat is not safe from them either!
Vets and scientists at Bristol University working on the Big Tick Project say that tick distribution has grown by 17% over the last decade, with tick numbers in surveyed locations increasing by up to 73%!
This third article of our pet health series is right on the tick with advice and guidance in tick removal.
Generally picked up in long grass or woodland, the tick crawls up blades of grass or twigs and waits for any unsuspecting mammal to brush by. Clinging to the fur, they crawl to the warmth of the skin where they then embed their mouthparts into the skin and begin feeding on the blood. Unfed ticks are about the size of a pinhead and, once they’ve gorged themselves on your pet’s blood,
their bodies can swell up to the size of a pea. Ticks can be varying shades of black, brown and red, and can look like small warts.
Usually, once the tick is full it will ‘disengage’ and fall off your pet, but feeding can take several days giving the chance of infections such as Lyme disease to spread from the tick to your pet. Of course, prevention is the best option and many flea treatments also contain ingredients to kill and protect against ticks.
But would you know what to do if you find a tick on your pet?
Make sure you wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards – ticks can transfer Lyme disease and other nasty infections to humans too.
And make sure your pet is calm and happy – you might want to have someone else help to hold him, as you need your pet to be still for you to be able to remove the tick whole.
Don’t ever try to burn the tick off or remove it with Vaseline, nail polish or any other chemical – this may cause the tick to regurgitate and potentially infect your pet.
Ideally, use a specially-designed tick removing tool (widely available from pet stores and online) or shaped tweezers, but a pair of fine-tipped tweezers will do otherwise.
Using the tool/tweezers, firmly grasp the tick’s head close to the skin. Don’t squash or squeeze the tick as this could allow harmful bacteria in the tick’s blood to get into your pet’s bloodstream.
Pull the tick head out in a straight and steady motion, without twisting – you don’t want to leave any mouthparts still embedded in your pet, leaving them open to infection.
Clean the area with a pet antiseptic.
Check your pet for any more ticks. They tend to attach close to the head, neck, ears and feet, but you should check your pet all over (including the groin and within skin folds) for ticks when they have been outside – feel for any tell-tale bumps or swollen areas.
If you don’t feel confident in removing ticks safely or you’re worried you may have left something behind, go to your vet straightaway … and ask your vet or the nurse to show you for future reference.
Keep an eye on your pet for any suspicious ailments for the next few weeks – symptoms of tick-borne diseases may not show up for several days or weeks. Symptoms can include lameness, swollen joints, lethargy, depression, loss of appetite and fever. The bite area may be itchy too, so try to stop your pet from scratching and irritating the skin further.
Once you’ve removed the tick, keep hold of it just in case your vet needs to examine it. Don’t just throw it away (they’re hardy little blighters and will simply find a spot to brush onto their next victim). Don’t flush it down the loo either – air sacs in the tick’s body allow it to survive in water. Instead, put it in a sealable jar, ideally with some rubbing alcohol, for at least a few days to make sure you kill it.
This article was brought to you by Scallywags Pet Care - based in Hurst Green and covering Oxted, Limpsfield, Westerham and the surrounding areas, we provide dog walking, cat and small animal feeding, and pet taxi services. Contact us now to see how we can help with care for your pet.