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, which will become larger and darker when filled with blood. Unlike fleas, they don't fly or jump, instead they climb or drop on your pets coat when they brush past what 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 to squeeze the ticks body or leave the head in. If you squeeze it's body this can push blood back into your pet, which will increase the chance of them getting a disease. The same goes for leaving the ticks head in.

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, as this won't stop the possibility of getting bacterial infections like Lyme disease.

Lyme disease

A serious bacterial infection called Lyme disease is passed by ticks. Dogs, cats and humans can all get Lyme disease, although it's uncommon in cats.

Symptoms with cats and dogs include:

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lethargic.

Treatment for Lyme disease

If caught 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 a treatment.

Tick prevention

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.

Stop ticks from biting your pet by using a tick treatment that either kills or repels if they attach. There are different types of treatments, such as:

  • spot on treatments
  • 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 clothing and trousers to cover the skin. You can also use insect repellent to stop ticks.

If you're bitten please use the tick twisting tool to remove the tick and 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, see your vet about preventative treatments needed to protect your pet against 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 appears talk to your vet and let them know your dog has been abroad.

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