Ticks on dogs and cats

Ticks are spider-like small parasites that suck blood from other animals. They have eight legs, with an egg-shaped body that will become larger and darker when filled with blood. Unlike fleas, they don't fly or jump. Instead, they climb or drop on your pet's coat when they brush past whatever they're sitting on.

Ticks are common in woodland and grassland and, although active throughout the year, you'll most likely see them between spring and autumn. Cats are less likely to get ticks than dogs, but it can still happen.

How to remove a tick

Tick bites can carry diseases, so it's important to remove them straight away. When removing a tick, make sure not you don't squeeze the tick's body or leave the head in. If you squeeze its body or leave the head in, this can push blood back into your pet, which will increase the chance of them getting a disease.

Tick removal tool

To avoid squeezing the body or leaving the head in, you'll need to twist the tick off. This can be done using a tick removal tool, which can be picked up at pet shops or the vets. Your vet will be able to show you the best way to remove a tick by twisting.

If you're unsure how to remove a tick, please speak to your vet first. Don't try to burn them off or use lotion to suffocate them, as this won't prevent your pet from getting bacterial infections like Lyme disease.

Lyme disease

Ticks will bite and feed on your dog or cat for up to a few days, and drop off once they've had enough. During this time, it's possible the tick could give your pet a disease.

Ticks carry a serious bacterial infection called Lyme disease. Dogs, cats and humans can all get Lyme disease, although it's uncommon in cats. Symptoms in cats and dogs include:

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lethargy
  • Treatment for Lyme disease

If you catch it early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. If you think your dog or cat has Lyme disease, contact your vet, who will run tests and start treatment.

Tick prevention

Stop ticks from biting your pet by using a tick treatment that either kills or repels them if they attach themselves. There are different types of treatments, such as spot on treatments and tablets. Ask your vet for the best tick treatment.

Be careful! Never use dog tick medicine on cats or vice versa. Some dog tick treatments contain chemicals that are toxic to cats, and can even be fatal to them.

Humans can get ticks too

Take precautions when walking your dog and wear long-sleeved tops and trousers to cover your skin. You can also use insect repellent to stop ticks.

If you're bitten, use the tick twisting tool to remove the tick. If you're concerned, please speak with your GP.

Going on holiday?

Diseases not seen in the UK can be passed by biting insects and ticks when abroad. If you're taking your dog on holiday with you, ask your vet about preventative treatments needed to protect your pet from ticks, sandflies, heartworms and tapeworms.

Treatments may be different depending on where you're going, so it's best to talk to your vet well before going on holiday. Some treatments might need to be started before your holiday.

If signs of illness appear, talk to your vet and let them know your dog has been abroad.

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