Ticks are parasites that attach to a dog and feed on their blood. These mites measure a few millimeters across, but they can prove dangerous, not because of the quantity of blood they consume, but becuase of the risk of diseases an infection they can transmit to the dog.
Ticks are parasites, and belong to the mite family. They become attached to the dog with the help of their rostrum which is planted in the skin. The mite will then suck your dog's blood for 2 - 3 days, and then drop to the ground.
Where can my dog pick up a tick?
Ticks breed at temperatures anywhere between 0°C and 20°C. In the UK, they are therefore active for most of the year, however they tend be most of a problem during spring and autumn due to cooler and wetter conditions. Your dog will typically pick up a tick in long grass, bushes or hedgerows that are around gardens, fields, forests and undergrowth, this is where ticks lie in wait for a host to brush past, they will usually be found 40cm - 1m above the ground. Ticks can remain dormant for several months without feeding, or finding a host.
It is important to be vigilant during countryside walks during these periods. Horses and sheep are frequently carriers of ticks so be particularly careful around them. If they do not transmit ticks directly to dogs, they promote proliferation.
Ticks like to live on the dog where the skin is thinner (and closer to the blood supply) and also in the "hidden" areas, be sure to inspect folds of skin, the groin area, armpits, between toes, around the ears and neck as well as under the collar.
You should inspect your dog thoroughly after walking your dog in areas that are susceptible to housing ticks, a good frequent brushing will make it easier and quicker to find any ticks.
What are the dangers of ticks for my dog?
Ticks are parasites that can transmit diseases:
Piroplasmosis is caused by a microscopic parasite (Babesia canis) in the blood that the tick transmits to the dog during its feeding. This parasite destroys red blood cells, this can cause the release of toxins which can cause jaundice and even renal failure in severe cases. If not treat quickly piroplasmosis can be fatal within a few days.
Ehrlichiosis is another disease transmitted by ticks, has symptoms similar to those of piroplasmosis, but leads to an even quicker death. To date, there is no vaccine against this disease.
Borreliosis or Lyme disease, is a disease from the United States which has appeared in the UK in recent years - it can also affect humans.
Ticks are more dangerous for the deadly diseases they can transmit rather than the amount of blood suck from the dog. Prevention against these parasites is essential for the health of your companion.
A recent study has shown that contrary to what was previously thought, piroplasmosis can be transmitted to dogs in just 8 hours after the initial tick bite. This study which was published in 2018 shows that after a first blood meal on the first host followed by detachment, the infectious stages of Babesia canis develop while the tick waits to find a new host. It is therefore wnd host that contract piroplasmosis in the following 8 hours, which is a lot quicker than the 48 hours that was previously assumed.
It is therefore important to remove ticks as quickly as possible, and preferably before they start feeding.
How to get rid of ticks?
Always inspect your dog when returning from walks, if you see a tick, you must immediately remove it. I would recommend using a tick-hook that removes the entire tick, without the risk of leaving the head stuck in the skin of the dog, which may lead to infection.
Always disinfect after removing a tick to prevent infection.