Just when you thought it was safe to go out…
The weather has finally cooled down and you’re thinking to yourself, great I can stop worrying so much about protecting my pet when we go out – no more sun cream on noses, no more early morning walks before the pavements become too hot for their paws, I can finally relax. But no! Just like being a parent to a child, as a pet-parent there are always concerns about something. As autumn approaches, September brings a new wave of parasite concerns for your fur-baby; ticks and the diseases they carry, in particular Lyme disease. Read on for our top tips on Lyme disease and the importance of parasite control.
What is Lyme disease, and should I be concerned?
Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection which can be transmitted by ticks. If your pet is bitten by an infected tick, and not treated early with antibiotics by a vet, in some cases Lyme disease can be fatal. So, in short – yes, you should be concerned, although it’s important to point out that not all ticks in the UK will carry this disease. However, it’s still important to make sure your pet has adequate tick protection, check for ticks after walks, and should a tick attach to your pet, remove it using a tick hook or lasso as soon as possible.
Look out for ticks
In the UK, ticks that may cause Lyme disease can be found in all four corners of the country, but high-risk places include grassy and wooded areas in southern and northern England and the Scottish Highlands
Although active throughout the year, you’ll most likely see ticks between spring and autumn. Cats are less likely to get ticks than dogs, but it can still happen.
How do I know if my pet has ticks? What do ticks look like?
Ticks are small spider-like parasites that suck blood from other animals. Unlike fleas, they don’t jump. Instead, ticks climb or drop onto your pet’s coat when your pet brushes past whatever the tick is sitting on. When a tick latches onto your pet’s skin for a blood meal they can be as small as a sesame seed but can grow to the size of a 5p once they are fully engorged with your pet’s blood. If that’s not gross enough, ticks can also carry a whole host of serious diseases that can be transmitted, including Lyme disease. It is during the blood meal that it is possible for disease transmission to happen.
Dogs, cats, and humans can all get Lyme disease, although it’s uncommon in cats.
Symptoms in cats and dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen and painful joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
If your pet has been bitten by a tick and has any of the above symptoms, you must contact your vet immediately. Like most things, it’s usually easier to treat if it’s diagnosed early.
Prevention is better than cure
Prevention is the best way forward to help protect your pet. As part of your pet’s preventative health care regime, you should include a tick protection product to help protect your pet – your vet can recommend the best one for you. As well as using products, there are practical steps you can take too. Whilst out walking, try to avoid long grass and bushy areas, albeit easier said than done when your four-legged friend is off the lead bounding around!
Check your pet over
It’s important to check your pet’s coat after every walk, not just in grassy areas and woodland, but urban areas too. Ticks like to attach their mouth parts to skin with the least amount of hair, such as your pet’s belly, lower legs and especially around their ears and face. Often dogs will bury their nose in bushes, sniffing out those wonderful scents, and will come out with more than they bargained for – ticks attached to their skin!
Ticks can be removed by using a special tick removal tool. These can be purchased from pet shops or your vet. Follow the instructions carefully as ticks need twisting to be removed safely. When a tick attaches itself to your pet it secretes a substance to help anchor itself to your pet’s skin, so never pull or tug at a tick as this may leave part of the tick behind, which could lead to infection. If you are worried about a tick on your pet, contact your vet. For more information, click here.
Lyme disease in humans
Lyme disease in humans can be very serious and, in some cases, can have long lasting effects. Celebrities in the media such as Alec Baldwin, Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber and Amy Schumer have all been affected by Lyme disease and are raising awareness around the disease and its debilitating effects.
The true incidence of Lyme disease is unknown; however, it is estimated that there are 2,000 – 3,000 new confirmed cases of Lyme disease each year in England and Wales.
Knowing about Lyme disease and the importance of parasite control is part of being a responsible pet parent. Remember, prevention is better than cure, and ticks can carry a whole host of serious diseases that can be transmitted to pets and humans. So, to avoid being a tick’s latest snack, cover your skin while out walking; wear long trousers and tuck them into your socks (you might even start a new trend!). You could also use insect repellent on your clothes and skin – products containing DEET are recommended. And remember to do a quick brush-down outside, after every walk, just to make sure you haven’t picked up any unwanted friends.