Last week I discovered, to my horror, that our lovely little Jack Russell had aquired a crop of ticks , no doubt as a result of enthusiastic rabbit hunting in the woodland near home.
If you haven’t seen them before, ticks appear as usually greyish in colour, soft bodied nodes that attach themselves to an area of the animal where they can feed on the blood supply undisturbed. You can differentiate them from warts quite easily because the legs of the tick are usually visible to the exterior of the node (you may need to put your specs on if the tick is very tiny).
Unfortunately ticks can also attach themselve to humans – they prefer the thinner skin of the armpit, groin or behind the ear. Often they are tiny- less than 0.5mm, so are hard to see. The important thing to remember is that when the tick is removed, if the area of redness around the bite remains for more than three days you need to seek medical advice.
Tick removal on animals or humans needs to be done carefully to ensure that none of the biting parts are left n the body. I discovered a delightful little device, the O’Tom Tick Twister which allow removal without squeezing the ticks body or leaving the mouthpieces in the skin. I spent many happy hours searching through Tilly’s fur for ticks to remove. The O’Tom Tick Twister is simple to use and very effective but you will need an assistant if your pet won’t sit still.
Tick bourne diseases are becoming increasingly common in the UK especially in areas where deer graze. The most widely known is probably Lyme disease which is cause by a bacteria carried by ticks. A person may be unaware of having been bitten and the most common indication is a pink or red circular rash that develops around the bite. Flu like symptoms, headaches and joint pains may also develop. If left untreated further symptoms can develop such as joint pain/swelling, muscle pain and temporary paralysis of facial muscles. The most usual treatment is with a course of antibiotocs which may have to be taken for two to four weeks. As there is no vaccine to prevent Lyme disease the best course of action is to avoid being bitten:
- wear a long sleeved shirt
- tuck your trousers into your socks
- use insect repellent
- check yourself for ticks
- check you children and pets for ticks.
In dogs Piroplasmosa Canis is a parasite that can be transmitted by ticks causing a potentially fatal condition called Piroplasmosis. More in formation on this disease can be found at The Piroplasmosis Post. Again prevention is the most effective course of action use a Scalibor collar or Frontline. However if you are travelling abroad with your pet ask your vet about Advantix which may be more effective on the continent.