Babesiosis is a malaria-like disease carried by ticks and has already killed two dogs in Harlow, Essex. Milder winters are increasing tick numbers and the rising amount of pet travel means news species of tick are turning up in the UK.
Dr Sean McCormack MVB (Pictured to the right), chief vet at tails.com, a company that delivers tailor-made food for dogs, has provided ten tips to help prevent the transmission of tick diseases.
1. Recognise tick habitat:
This allows you to take more precautions when you know where you and your dog are likely to pick up ticks. Long grass and undergrowth is prime tick habitat. Heathland, parks, woodland and even gardens can all harbour high numbers of ticks.
2. Check your dog regularly:
Comb through your dog’s coat thoroughly after walks brushing with and against the direction of hair growth. Be sure to also check armpits, groin, behind and inside ears, around the head, muzzle and neck, between toes and pads and other hard to reach places.
3. Remove ticks quickly:
Some infections transmitted by ticks can occur within 24 hours of the tick attaching to the skin to feed. The sooner a tick can be removed, the less likely nasty bacteria or parasites will infect you or your dog.
4. Remove ticks effectively:
The trick is to get under the biting mouthparts, twisting and lifting the tick with an inexpensive tick removal tool. It’s very easy to break a tick if using tweezers, leaving mouthparts embedded resulting in infection. Never squeeze a tick, burn it off or apply grease or alcohol as this can make the tick secrete more infected saliva into a bite wound.
5. Use effective tick prevention for your dog:
There is a bewildering array of anti-parasite products on the market, some more effective than others against certain parasites. Talk to your vet about options for spot on or oral parasite controls that guarantee to cover ticks too.
6. Use appropriate repellents:
Spray your clothing and pet accessories, following manufacturers guidelines. Also bring a tick removal tool and antiseptic solution for any bites that do happen.
7. Wear appropriate clothing:
Wear long sleeves and trousers tucked into shoes when walking in tick habitat, sticking to the centre of paths and avoiding long grass or undergrowth. Wearing shorts is a dinner invitation to hungry ticks.
8. Deter ticks from gardens:
Urban wildlife can bring ticks into gardens, so try to keep grass short, clear wild undergrowth and site seating or play areas away from borders and vegetation.
9. Don’t bring ticks home:
Check yourself carefully when you return from being outdoors with your dog, removing outer layers of clothing before going indoors. Have someone check you over for any attached ticks and do the same for your dog.
10. Consider Lyme disease vaccination:
Unfortunately we cannot get vaccinated against Lyme disease in the UK, but your dog can. If your dog exercises in high risk tick areas, vaccination can offer a further level of protection against this deadly disease even if using regular tick prevention, which isn’t always fool proof. Speak to your vet about vaccination.