The horrible world of ticks! Know your facts

The horrible world of ticks! Know your facts

I think everyone who has seen a tick elicits the same response. It starts at the face with a grimace akin to very bad smell in the room followed by a momentary shivery dance. Ticks are horrible things, I think most will agree and something as pet owners we encounter from time to time. Contrary to popular misconception ticks only jump onto our pets for food and will feed for about 1 week then drop off. Their homes tend to be under dense matted vegetation and there is a massive variation in size from poppy seed up to that of a 5p piece.

All creatures have their place in the natural order of things (despite the apparent unpalatable habit of jumping onto our pets and ourselves for that matter), but ticks are the “host” for Lyme disease (borrelosis). This is a very nasty disease that can be tricky to identify and will cause fever and ongoing intermittent problems including lethargy and lameness. It is transmitted from the tick when it feeds (but has to be on for 24-48 hours usually, for transmission to occur).

Lyme disease has traditionally been considered to be in isolated pockets, well known examples include the New Forest and parts of Scotland, but having diagnosed a member of staffs’ dog with the condition it is close to our hearts. Not every tick has the disease and generally in this area we are not seeing large numbers of animals with the disease but it pays to be vigilant especially if you are on holiday in an affected area or see an animal become poorly following a tick bite.

Prevention with tick killing or repellant agents is the traditional approach to this problem. They work well but rely on regular monthly treatment . Recently a vaccination has been developed which is now key in prevention of Lyme disease in dogs. It does not kill the tick but blocks the passage of Lyme disease, which interestingly means even if the tick drops off it cannot pass the disease to another host next time it feeds. Almost like vaccinating the tick!

So if you are going to visit an area with notoriety for tick borne disease or have had problems with ticks please speak to your vet and decide what strategy will be best for you. Please do not be embarrassed if you feel the need to do the tick dance either, we all do it sometimes.