Pet owners: keep ticks at bay

Pet owners: keep ticks at bay

Pics: Caroline Mardon, Rex Shutterstock

Years ago, we all knew that walking in the New Forest or the Scottish Highlands meant taking extra special care not to pick up ticks, as they can infect both humans and dogs with Lyme Disease. But now the unwelcome visitors have become much more widespread in the UK, gracing all the long grasses, parklands and woodlands they can find.

TV Vet David Grant has come out of retirement to remind us how we can help keep our dogs safe from these spider-like, bloodsucking creatures this summer.

“There’s no need to stop walking your dog, you just have to be vigilant after going out,” he explains. “Give your pet a thorough going over every day and if you spot anything suspicious, take them to the vet to get the right treatment. Sometimes an owner thinks they’ve found a tick but it turns out to be a harmless skin tag,” David continues. “It’s hard to spot an actual tick because until fully grown they can be as small as the edge of your little fingernail.”

David warns against trying to drown a tick in spirits, or squeezing them. “These methods could actually spread Lyme Disease because they will distress the tick and cause it to regurgitate its contents.” However, “the vet will give you a tick hook and show you how to use it properly – reducing the risk of leaving the head of the tick in your dog’s skin, which could become a nasty abscess. Most owners from rural areas are aware of these risks but unfortunately your pet can now pick up ticks in a relatively urban setting.”

‘A lot of animals are not getting treated properly, and they’re suffering as a result’

But, as with most pet protection, prevention is better than cure. “Keep your pet under regular veterinary supervision,” David urges. “Check ups, routine booster vaccinations and a parasite protection prevention programme will all help to keep ticks, fleas and other nasties at bay.”

This is just as important for cats as it is for dogs. Despite cats being relatively resistant to Lyme disease, ticks can still cause them discomfort and on small cats a number of ticks can cause anaemia.

Think your dog might have Lyme Disease? Look for the classic sign of shifting lameness. “They might be lame in one leg one day, then get a bit better before getting lame in another leg,” David warns. “If the bacteria doesn’t get treated it will spread and eventually your dog will get sick, lethargic and lose its appetite.

“By that point it’s not easy to diagnose the problem… but Lyme Disease really is very treatable and preventable. So don’t panic, just get your dog to the vets and on a protection programme. That’s the best you can possibly do for them.”

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