Ticks are on the rise – what dog owners need to know

Posted by Dr Dog. September 19th 2016.

The number of tick-infested dogs in the UK has doubled in the space of a year, a shocking find from The Big Tick Project.

The study, carried out by vets on over 12,000 dogs in spring 2016, also found that up to 90 per cent of infested dogs could be carrying the deadly Lyme disease, a fatal disease carried by the Ixodes Ricinus species of tick.

Vets are therefore warning dog owners all over the UK to be extra vigilant and get their dogs regularly checked for ticks to prevent them from contracting any of the diseases commonly passed on by these tiny but deadly creatures.


What is a tick? What happens if there are ticks on your dog?

A tick is a small, blood-sucking creature related to spiders, mites and scorpions – yes, we said scorpions! In all seriousness, though, these little creatures can latch themselves onto a host’s skin and stay there, sucking on the host’s blood.

There are many different species of tick in the UK, but the Ixodes Ricinus, more commonly known as the sheep tick, will feed on a variety of birds and mammals, including humans.

They are able to spread diseases, such as Lyme Disease, by moving from animal to animal and picking up infections as they go. When they then bite into our precious pets they can pass on these infections and cause no end of health problems.


What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The most common and visible symptoms of Lyme disease you need to look out for are:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever between 103 and 105°
  • Swollen joints and lymphnodes
  • Lameness
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms can sometimes take 2-5 months to make themselves apparent, and can lead to kidney failure if left untreated.


What can we do? 

The distribution of ticks has unfortunately expanded by 17 per cent over the last decade, according to The Big Tick Project research, so they’re very hard to avoid. A common misconception is that ticks are only a problem in rural areas, however Professor Richard Wall from the University of Bristol has warned dog owners in urban areas that they need to be just as concerned about ticks, as 30 per cent of urban parks have been found to have ticks.

With this in mind, we need to take steps to prevent these creatures from making themselves at home on our dogs (and on us!) Our top tick tips:

  • Avoid humid woodland areas and long grass where possible
  • Brush off your dog and your clothing before going back into the house after a walk
  • Ask your vet about tick collars, dips, shampoos and spot-on treatments which can repel ticks


As part of The Big Tick Project, scientists from the University of Bristol compiled an interactive map showing the distribution of ticks across the UK. You can search your postcode or town to see the level of tick infestation in your area here: www.bigtickproject.co.uk/about/uk-tick-threat-map/


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