Tick Bite Prevention Week
If you own a dog or horse the chances are that at some point you will have removed a tick from their coat or skin, or indeed your own legs after walking through long grass or wooded areas. We are taking a closer look at ticks below for Tick Bite Prevention Week.
What are ticks?
Ticks are small bloodsucking parasites that can be so tiny they are difficult to spot and may just look like a small skin lump the size of a speck of dirt. There are approximately 20 species of tick that are common in the UK. Found in woodlands, tall grass and bushes, ticks are active once the temperature reaches 4C. As UK winters have become much milder, ticks bites are possible at all times of the year but activity peaks from April to June. They feed on the blood of animals, including our pets, and will also feed on humans if they get the chance.
Should I be worried about tick bites?
Whilst they might not appear to cause too much discomfort they can carry dangerous diseases such as Lyme disease (Borreliosis) and Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) which can have devastating consequences for both humans and pets. Therefore it is important to be aware of ticks and to check yourself and your pets after spending time outdoors, especially if you have been in long grass or woodland.
Lyme Disease: Did you know..?
- Around 3,000 people a year are infected with Lyme disease as a result of a tick bite.
- In a study 2.4% of ticks found on UK dogs were carrying Lyme disease.
- Most ticks have to attach for more than 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease
- The New Forest in Hampshire, Thetford Forest on the Norfolk / Suffolk border and the Scottish Highlands are areas with high numbers of ticks that carry Lyme disease.
- If left untreated, Lyme disease can affect the joints, the heart, the nervous system and cause chronic fatigue.
- Antibiotics can be used to treat Lyme disease if it is caught in the early stages.
Prevention Measures for Pets
If you are worried about your pet picking up ticks whilst outdoors speak to your vet about tick prevention. Turmeric also helps to repel ticks (and fleas) as the essential oils – turmerones and curcuminoids – have tick and insect repellent properties (ticks apparently become confused and cannot hold on!). Check your pet thoroughly after walks and if you can, during spring and summer, avoid long grass and stick to clear paths.
Light coloured clothing makes it easier to spot ticks and if you can’t avoid long grass or brushing past other vegetation then wear long sleeves and trousers to help prevent ticks attaching themselves to your skin. You can also use an insect repellent.
Safe Removal of Ticks
Ticks should be removed promptly. The best way to remove a tick is with a special tick removal tool. They have a hook or scoop with a narrow slot in which traps the tick’s mouthpiece and prevents you leaving the mouthparts in the skin which could lead to infection and irritation. Never try to just pull a tick off as you need to ensure all of it is removed.
Enjoy the Outdoors
Be tick aware but remember to enjoy the great outdoors with your pets and all the benefits it brings to your mental and physical health! Just check yourself and your pets over afterwards to stay tick free.