Ticks

Oh Those Bloody Ticks!

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It’s that time of year again, here in Spain at least. From March/April, tick season starts. Due to the changing wet to warm weather we currently have, they are LOVING it at the moment.

Every time I take my dogs out into the fields behind our house, at least one of them ends up with a tick. These spider-related parasites seem to have a specific preference for my Skippy. It’s like they’re waiting to latch their evil little claws into his gorgeous fluff…and then just leisurely walk around on his body searching for the perfect spot to start sucking his blood. Nasty.

Anuska gets less bothered by ticks. I think the thick, smooth structure of her fur makes her a less attractive host. She has had one tick (in her ear) since I’ve had her, sneaky little thing, as at first it looked to be a normal part of her inner ear!

How do I know my dog has a tick?

The picture above shows the difference between a tick in “empty” state and one that is full up. Yes, that is your pets blood in there. Awful.
Most of us will be more familiar with the tick in its full state. I know I was. At first I wondered what all those cute little spiders were, crawling around on Skippy. Then I realised they were ticks and there was nothing cute about them. They can, in fact, be quite dangerous.

Make yourself aware of the different types of ticks, depending on where you live. Most ticks look similar. As they are part of the spider family, they all have 8 legs. They range between 0.5 and 15 mm in size.

Check your dog regularly, especially after the dog has been somewhere it’s had a chance to snout about in nature. Check their fur thoroughly for any ticks walking about and if you feel any bumps or swellings, check the area closer for the presence of a tick that has already buried its ugly head into your dog.

There are many preventive products on the market. There are tablets, collars, sprays and drops – make sure to use one that works for your dog.

Why are ticks dangerous?

Although ticks don’t directly cause diseases, if they are infected they can transmit whatever nasties they are carrying to whoever they are biting. Therefore your dog (or you, if you are unlucky enough to be the host!) could end up quite seriously ill because of the bite of one nasty tick.

What diseases do they spread?

The most common tick-borne disease in Europe is Lyme Disease. This is a horrible disease which in its later stages can lead to permanent motoric damage. After the tick burrows its way into your dog’s skin, it will take approximately 10-12 hours for the disease to transmit from the tick to your pet. During this time, pay close attention to your dog’s behavior; watch out for exhaustion, heavy breathing, stiff joints or sudden collapse.

Another, more unknown, disease transmitted by ticks is Ehrlichiosis. Symptoms of this disease in your dog can be high fever and complete weakness, discharge from nose and eyes, loss of appetite followed by weight loss, anemia, sudden hemorrhages, bleeding from the nose, mouth, intestine and subcutaneous bleeding.

Tick-borne Encephalitis can cause inflammation of the brain. The presence of this disease has recently increased throughout Europe. Symptoms to look out for in your dog include fever, depression, behavior and personality changes (especially aggression), seizures and coma.

Because symptoms of tick-borne illnesses may not show up until days or even weeks after the bite, it is important to check your dog daily and watch out for symptoms that could signify a more serious condition.

How do I get this thing out?

Opinions vary greatly on how to remove ticks. A lot of DIY ideas involving all kinds of household products are suggested, but whether they work or not remains questionable. There is no scientific evidence to say putting petroleum jelly or nail varnish on a tick helps the situation in any way. Another “great idea” I read on the web is to set the tick on fire with a match. Yeah, ok. We’ll ignore the fact the dog has hair then, shall we?

So what does work? A good old-fashioned pair of tweezers or a special tick removal device is the way forward. Separate the dog’s hair and gently grab the tick with the tweezers, as near to the dog’s skin as possible. Don’t use the force, however tempting. Distressing the tick can make it express some more disgusting infections into the dog, and if you break it, the head can stay behind in the dog’s skin and cause infection. So instead, pull outward in a straight, steady motion, making sure that you’ve removed the entire tick.

Here’s a video that shows the full process, from waysandhow.com:

If you can’t get the tick out, or you suspect your dog has an infection following a tick bite, always consult your vet.

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