Don’t be left in the dark about the problems ticks bites cause; how to treat tick bites and how you can help prevent them spreading

Go for a walk across a field and the chances are you could come back with more than you bargained for. Ticks are extremely prevalent at the moment and while the fact that they can spread Lyme disease is well known, it certainly isn’t the only disease that dogs—or people—can contract from ticks.

A tick gets onto the skin and sinks its jaws (not its head) wherever it can to secure a blood source and continue to feed for a few hours through to several days during which time their body bloats. Should you find one on your pet (or yourself) do not squeeze a tick or try to remove one by burning it off as this does not work, and may cause the tick to regurgitate its potentially infectious fluids back into the skin. Similarly, do not apply surgical spirit, Vaseline, nail polish or in fact ANY substance or chemical to the tick.

We recommend using a Tick Removal Tool like the Tick Twister tick removal tool as this is the safest way to remove one without leaving parts of the tick in the skin and is also the tool recommended by BADA-UK (Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness UK). The Tick Twister works by gripped without compressing the tick’s body and is inserted between the tick and the skin and the tick is extracted by 2-3 rotations with a slight upward motion, not by pulling. After removing the tick, clean the area with an antibiotic, alcohol or another disinfectant. If part of the tick remains buried, try to get the rest out by using a needle boiled in water for five minutes, the way you would remove a wood splinter. Afterwards, cleanse and disinfect the area as before.

Tweezers may also suffice but we do not recommend this method over the use of a specific tick removing device and gloves should be worn. The removed tick should then be soaking it in a jar of alcohol or taken outside and crushed underfoot to kill it.

We’d also like to bring your attention to what tick nests look like and should you come across one on your travels then please make efforts to destroy it and so help prevent the problem spreading.

lyme rash2Lymes disease: It’s estimated there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year. Lyme disease can often be treated effectively if it’s detected early on but if treatment is delayed or if it’s not treated at all, there’s a risk you could develop severe and long-lasting symptoms.

Many people with early-stage Lyme disease develop a distinctive circular rash at the site of the tick bite, usually around three to 30 days after being bitten. This is known as erythema migrans. The rash is often described as looking like a bull’s-eye on a dart board. The affected area of skin will be red and the edges may feel slightly raised. The size of the rash can vary significantly and it may expand over several days or weeks. Typically it’s around 15cm (6 inches) across, but it can be much larger or smaller than this. Some people may develop several rashes in different parts of their body. However, around one in three people with Lyme disease won’t develop this rash. Other early stage symptoms including tiredness (fatigue), muscle pain, joint pain, headaches a high temperature (fever), chills and neck stiffness.

More serious symptoms may develop several weeks, months or even years later if Lyme disease is left untreated or is not treated early on. These can include: pain and swelling in the joints, problems affecting the nervous system – such as numbness and pain in your limbs, memory problems and difficulty concentrating; heart problems – such as inflammation of the heart muscle; inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord which can cause a severe headache, a stiff neck and increased sensitivity to light. Some of these problems will get better slowly with treatment, although they can persist if treatment is started late.

In addition to Lyme disease, ticks also carry ehrichiosis, anaplasmosis, rocky mountain spotted fever and others. What’s more these are cross-species (zoonotic) diseases and can affect both dogs and people. There’s simply no way for people to tell if a tick is carrying disease or not, and it only takes one tick bite to infect you or your dog. Also, some ticks are known to carry more than one of these diseases, which can lead to multiple infections, or coinfection, and the symptoms of all vector-borne diseases can be vague and difficult to recognise.

Vigilance is paramount as often many pet owners don’t know their dog or that they are suffering from a debilitating tick disease until it’s too late and professional assistance should be sort if you feel you’ve been bitten and affected by a tick bite.