Ticks, and How To Remove Them!

This year, tick infestations seem to be particularly bad. At My Pet Nutritionist, we have had many worried pet owners coming to us, regarding tick prevention, worrying about potential diseases the ticks their dogs are picking up may carry. This guide explains what ticks are, how to identify them, how the severity of tick bites differs depending on your location in the world, what diseases ticks can carry, and how to help prevent tick bites. We will also discuss the dangers of conventional tick treatments, and explain how to safely remove any engorged ticks.

(Did anyone get the ode to Fantastic Beasts, and Where to Find Them?! Ticks are definitely not ‘fantastic’ beasts, however!)

How to Identify a Tick

Ticks are often mistaken for skin tags… or those latched on the stomach area, often mistaken for nipples! Ticks have very small heads, and large, shiny, rounded bodies. They have 8 legs, which protrude from around the head area. Ticks can be a variety of colours, from peachy-nude, to red, to dark brown, grey and black. They can be seen crawling across your pet’s fur, or engorged, in which case, only the large rounded body will be visible, with the legs also visible right next to the skin. We will talk about tick removal later in this article.

Ticks in the UK

In the UK, our tick population doesn’t tend to carry diseases which are deadly to healthy dogs, unlike other countries which have ticks carrying more severe diseases. We have around 20 species of tick in the UK.

The most common species of tick in the UK are Castor Bean ticks (Ixodes Ricinus), Hedgehog ticks (Ixodes hexagonus), and Dog ticks (Ixodes canisuga), though deer ticks are sometimes picked up.

Ticks in the Rest of the World

Ticks in countries outside of the UK can be much more dangerous than those in the UK, to both humans and dogs.

Paralysis ticks are an example – once engorged, Australian Paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus) and the European Red Sheep tick (Haemaphysalis punctata) release a neurotoxin which causes paralysis in the host.

Another of the more dangerous ticks is the Lone Star tick (Amblyomma Americanum) which can transmit ehrlichiosis in dogs, which can cause internal bleeding, and death. In humans, the Lone Star tick can cause Alpha-gal syndrome, which is a severe allergy to red meat, and products made from mammals.

But What About Lyme Disease?

Often carried by Deer Ticks, Lyme disease is the most common potential disease transmitted from ticks. In humans, Lyme Disease is a very debilitating condition, and has a huge affect on one’s quality of life. Humans affected, will likely be on very long courses, or even lifelong medication.

Thankfully, Lyme Disease in dogs is much less of a worry! Dogs have a great ability to fight the bacteria causing Lyme Disease. In a study of Beagles exposed to Lyme disease, none of the adult dogs showed any symptoms! Puppies naturally have a less developed immune system, so the puppies in the study had around 4 days of mild symptoms, before their immune system fought off the bacteria!

By keeping the immune system strong, we can reduce the risk of symptomatic Lyme Disease in our dogs! Feed fresh, and keep the gut healthy to help keep the immune system strong!

Interesting fact: For transmission of Lyme Disease, a tick has to be engorged (attached to your dog, feeding) for 24-36 hours. If removed safely before this period, the risk of transmission is low.

Findings Here

How To Safely Remove a Tick

First we’ll explain how NOT to remove a tick, as this is incredibly important to minimise the risk of disease transmission, and is a common mistake made by pet owners.

The cardinal sin in tick removal, is smothering it. Never smother a tick in Vaseline, natural tick prevention, or any other product, and never attempt to burn them off. When you smother a tick, they let go as they are unable to breathe efficiently, however this also causes them to panic. When a tick panics, they regurgitate. Their innards, which could be hosting disease, would be expelled into your dog’s blood stream! If the tick is carrying anything untoward, it would be passed onto your dog!

Now onto the SAFE removal of a tick! There are 4 tools you can use! Let’s take a look at each of these!

Tick Twisters: These are plastic tools, with a forked end. Simply slide the tick between the forks, right by the skin, so the tick’s head is in the tool, and twist it. The twisting action causes the tick to let go.

Tick Keys: These have a large hole, with a very thin opening at the end. Simply hook the tick into the thinnest part of the hole, and pull away from the skin. This pulls the tick from the skin.

Tick Lassos: These are pen-like items, with a retractable wire loop at one end. Hook the wire over the tick, and retract it so the tick cannot move. Gently twist, and pull it away from the skin.

Tweezers: This is probably the least effective method, but perhaps slightly more accessible if you don’t have a tick tool at home yet (it’s a great idea to add one to your dog first aid kit!). Fine pointed tweezers work best. Pinch the tick with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible, and gently lift the tick away. Be sure to remove the head!

Once removed, spray the area with Leucillin, or similar natural antiseptic spray.

How to Prevent Ticks

There are a number of natural tick prevention methods available. A layered approach is best; an internal product, an external product, and perhaps a repelling collar.

Internal products often include herbs such as neem leaf, peppermint leaf, yucca, ginger, fenugreek, lemon balm, and garlic. These all make the dog unattractive to ticks. Fresh garlic is a great internal preventative, in the correct amounts for your size of dog. Do not give garlic to Japanese breeds, young puppies, or those suffering with blood disorders.

Natural external products often include neem, geraniol, rosemary, lavender, ginger, peppermint, and lemongrass. It’s important not to use products containing rosemary or geraniol on dogs with a history of seizures.

Essential oils of high quality, can also be very effective against ticks, however it’s important these are not used on pets in contact with cats as cats are extremely sensitive to most essential oils. Essential oils proven to be effective against ticks include Basil, Bergamot, lavender, thyme and marjoram.

Findings Here

Some brands offer 100% natural essential oil infused collars, but there are other options too when it comes to collars! Baltic Amber collars may help repel ticks due to the energies surrounding it. Electromagnetic (EM) collars and tags work in a similar way; ticks don’t like the electromagnetic energy, so will be repelled.

Dangers of Chemical Tick Treatments

We would not recommend using chemical pest treatment or preventatives. These can be spot on, collar or oral form. It’s also important to understand that these products DO NOT prevent ticks!! The tick had to engorge to ingest the poison circulating in the bloodstream of the dog, before dying and falling off.

Spot-on treatments: these absorb through the skin and into the bloodstream, where the powerful neurotoxins spread to all other organs in the body. Side affects most commonly seen with these are seizures, ataxia, dermatitis, and chemical burns.

Flea and tick collars: chemical flea and tick collars usually last around 9 months. They are infused with slow release neurotoxins which absorb through the skin and into the bloodstream, with similar side affects to spot-on treatments.

Oral treatments: these products come with official FDA warnings for seizures, ataxia, dermatitis, and even death. They appear to attack the kidneys too.

For more information on chemical treatments, read our blog here!

We hope this guide has helped you understand those pesky little ticks a but more, and perhaps put your mind at ease. Pets get ticks – it happens! Try not to panic! If you’re interested in switching to a safer, more natural lifestyle for your pets, please don’t hesitate to book in with one of our team!
Team MPN x

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