How to prevent ticks and Lyme disease in pets and owners
27th Sep 2023 Inspire
4 min read
Checking your pet for ticks after an outdoor walk is essential to prevent Lyme disease—a nasty bacterial infection that affects the joints, nerves and heart
Woodland walks offer the perfect respite from busy working lives and are a brilliant way to spend quality time with our canine companions. However, there are hazards to be aware of, as a pest lies in wait, with the ability to cause a lot of discomfort to any human or animal host unlucky enough to cross their path.
Capable of causing irritation and disease in humans and animals, the common tick is found in dense, moist vegetation growing in the UK.
They thrive in warmer weather, meaning that as we head into an unseasonably warm autumn, their spread will be ever more prevalent.
But how can we prevent the growing tick population from impeding pet and human health? What are the risks of getting bitten, and how should you treat a bite to prevent infection?
What are ticks?
Ticks are small spider-like parasites that cling on to host animals and suck their blood. Their similarity to spiders stems from their eight legs and egg-shaped body, which deepens in size and colour as it fills with blood.
Ticks engorge under the victim's skin until satisfied, after which they detach themselves and simply drop off.
"You should check yourself and your dog after every walk"
Approximately 20 species of tick are present in UK, with some carrying harmful bacteria that spread to humans and pets.
Unlike fleas and other insects, ticks don’t fly or jump. Instead, they nestle into the long grass, woodlands, or areas with lots of wildlife and sneakily crawl into dogs' fur as they brush past—so you should check yourself and your dog after every walk.
What does a tick look like?
A tick's appearance depends on the stage of the feeding cycle. When they first latch, they're no bigger than a sesame seed, which can make them difficult to spot amongst the fur and skin layers. But after indulging on a meal, they swell to the size of a coffee bean.
Some owners mistake them for a skin tag or lump on an animal. However, after closer inspection, you should find this dark protrusion on the skin is an insect-like creature, better known as a tick.
"Some owners mistake them for a skin tag or lump on an animal"
When checking your dog for ticks, focus on the feet, neck, head, and ears. Whilst these areas require more attention, it’s worth searching the dog from head-to-toe after entering flora. Sometimes, they find residence in the webbing between toes, or unknowingly attach themselves to the back end of an animal.
On humans, any body part that has touched a tick's vegetational abode, or another host, is at risk of being bitten.
How do you remove a tick?
Tick bites carry diseases that can be transferred to humans and other animals, so speed is crucial for removal.
Removing a tick by hand is not advised. The purchase of a specialist removal device, such as Johnson’s Tick Remover, will make the process much simpler.
The trick is to gently twist the tick several times using the tool before pulling it away, being careful not to squeeze it as you do so. Occasionally, infectious blood can be pushed back into your pet if you leave the head in or over-probe the bug.
Once removed, both the bite area and your hands should be disinfected with soapy water.
Lyme disease symptoms to watch for
Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks, is the most common tick-borne disease in Europe and has become more prevalent in recent years.
It takes anywhere between 24-48 hours for the bacteria from a tick bite to pass into the host, because the bacteria only leave the tick’s gut when they are fully fed, which can take a few days. This is why it is so important to remove the tick from the skin immediately.
"Early Lyme disease symptoms include a circular red 'bull’s eye' rash around the site of a bite"
When left undetected, and allowed to multiply, the Lyme disease bacteria can affect skin, joints, nerves and the heart.
Early Lyme disease symptoms include a circular red "bull’s eye" rash around the site of a bite. However, it can take up to three months for the rash to develop, and still, there’s no guarantee it will appear.
Watch out for flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, headache, tiredness and general aches and pains as disease indicators.
Whilst most cases of Lyme disease can be resolved with antibiotics and medical support, prevention remains superior to the cure.
There are numerous protective measures that can shield our pets from ticks, and in turn, reduce the spread of Lyme disease:
- Try a flea and tick collar, as this will deter ticks from becoming attracted to your pet.
- Expand your range of treatments, such as spot-on treatments—these can be purchased from your local pet-store.
- For added protection, wear long-sleeved shirts or trousers tucked into socks when walking your pet. Opting for light-coloured fabrics will make it easier to spot any hitchhikers.
- Check your children’s heads and necks, as well as your dog's fur and your own skin upon return.
- Disinfect the tick-infested areas with warm soapy water.
Ticks are to be expected as a pet owner, but they need not be problematic if precautions are taken and responded to quickly.
It is always better to be safe than sorry with these matters, so please ask your local pet store owner for advice if you want to stay safe from ticks all year round.
Family-owned, independent pet healthcare product provider Johnson’s was founded in 1921 and has remained true to its core roots of manufacturing a broad range of pet healthcare products, from flea and worm treatments to shampoos and treats, all available through high street pet shops and pet stores across the UK.
From its earliest beginnings Johnson’s has had a reputation for innovating and marketing leading products.
This reputation still holds true today, with many new products still being introduced into the ever-expanding pet care market. Johnson’s has made huge investments in marketing and advertising since the beginning of the new millennium and is now regarded as the dominant force in pet health products available in pet shops, pet stores, and garden centres.
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