Tick facts

8th April 2016

What are ticks?

  • Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that suck blood from animal hosts.
  • They are found throughout the world, and in the UK will typically feed from cattle, sheep, deer, dogs, cats and rabbits. All warm-blooded mammals are at risk.
  • They a have a pointed head, a body, four pairs of legs and mouth parts which protrude from the head. The mouthparts pierce the skin of their host and suck up blood.

Where are they found?

  • The species of tick most likely to infest dogs in the UK is Ixodes ricinus. It’s found in woods, rough ground, parkland, meadows and mountains.
  • The immature stages of this tick often feed off of small mammals or birds, but the adult stages tend to attach to larger animals such as deer, sheep or dogs.
  • In parks and urban areas it is often the hedgehog tick that is found feeding on dogs and cats. This ticks is called Ixodes hexagons.
  • Ticks can cause localised irritation to pets, and if they are scratched off and the mouthparts left behind, small abscesses can result. If you think a tick has bitten your pet and you see a swelling in the skin, make sure you let us have a look. The reaction may need antibiotics if it gets infected.
  • If you find a tick feeding in the skin, don’t try to pull the tick off without using a specially designed tool. We have these in stock at the clinic, and we will be happy to show you how to use them.

Ticks can spread diseases such as Lyme disease and babesiosis

  • Lyme Disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which can affect both humans and animals. Lyme disease initially causes flu and if left untreated, will cause a debilitating illness affecting both the heart and skeletal muscles.
  • Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that live in red blood cells. It can cause serious illness in both animals and people. In the acute form, red blood cells can rupture resulting in a life threatening form of anaemia. In the chronic forms, animals are anaemic, lethargic and debilitated. Diagnostic tests often show kidney and liver damage.

Checking for ticks

  • Small bean appearance- ticks attach to an animal by fixing their mouthparts into the skin. They often look like a small growth, wart or baked bean.
  • As they suck blood, the body of the tick swells. Many owners only notice a tick when it has already been feeding for several days and has engorged.
  • Grey or brown in colour - a swollen tick will often have a grey or brown body. The smaller larval stages look lighter in colour.
    Look everywhere - ticks commonly attach to an animal’s head and legs but they can be found anywhere on an animal’s body.

Tick treatments

  • Use our vet recommended ‘tick remover’ that enables the tick to be removed without the embedded mouthparts being left behind. It is a good idea to have one of these tick removers as part of a first aid box for your pet.
  • Here is a video link to show you how one of these tick removers works

Tick control

  • Check your pet on a daily basis for ticks and remove them before they have been attached for any length of time.
  • Use a tick control product on a regular basis to reduce the number of ticks that can establish a hold on your pet and to reduce the chances of any ticks that do attach from spreading tick‐borne diseases.
  • We have a selection of these at Bollington Veterinary Centre, so contact us for advice.
  • Please note that some tick control products can be toxic to cats. Talk to us at Bollington Veterinary Centre to ensure you use a safe effective product.