When you’re a dog owner, you find yourself spending more time outdoors than most people. You’ll be taking your furry friend on walks through parks, woodlands or other green spaces. Even Mr Benn, who already has a magical life, has experienced many more exciting adventures since he got Eddie. But these adventures do come with their risks, and one to look out for is ticks. A study of 15,000 dogs, conducted at the University of Bristol in 2015, found that 31 per cent were found to have a tick when a vet checked them at random. Ticks can carry a number of risks for your pup, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for these pests. Find out all you need to know about these troublesome creatures with our guide.

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How do dogs get ticks?

Ticks are most often found in parks, heathland, woodland and grassland areas but they can also show up in your garden if you live near an area with a lot of wildlife. They also tend to live in areas with a lot of deer or sheep. Most commonly, they live in rural areas, but the University of Bristol’s study showed that they can be found in urban areas too. Ticks won’t fly or jump onto your dog, they’ll fall or climb onto its coat if it brushes past where they are – such as when your pooch is playing in long grass.

What are the risks?

Like mosquitos, ticks suck blood and their bites can transmit bacteria. This bacteria can potentially cause serious infections, such as Lyme disease and babesiosis. Lyme disease is pretty rare, with only three per cent of ticks carrying it, but it can cause serious health problems for your dog. Symptoms of Lyme disease include a loss of appetite, depression, fever, swollen lymph nodes, lameness and swollen and painful joints. Babesiosis is also very rare and the tick that carries it is mainly only found in southern England and mainland Europe. Yet, it can cause some nasty symptoms, such as depression, pale gums, a swollen abdomen, fever, loss of appetite and yellow skin. In the worst case scenario, babesiosis can even be fatal in dogs.

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How to spot a tick

Ticks are big enough to see. They range from 1mm to 1cm in length, depending on how old they are and when they last fed. Ticks look like tiny spiders with an egg-shaped body that grows and darkens as it drinks blood. They may resemble a tiny pebble when they are attached to your dog, as you won’t be able to see their legs or the probe that they puncture the skin with. Ticks can be a range of colours, including pale cream, dark grey, brown or something in between. You might feel a tick when you are stroking or petting your dog. Ticks feel like small bumps on your dog’s skin and are most commonly found around its head, ears, neck or feet.

Safely removing a tick

If you find a tick on your dog, it’s best to remove it as soon as possible to lessen the risk of disease. Removing a tick can be tricky though as you need to be careful not to squeeze its body or cause its head to break off and become stuck in your dog. This can increase the chance of infection. Brushing can help to remove ticks if they are not attached. If a tick is attached, then twisting it off is the safest and best way to remove it from your dog. There are tick-removal devices on the market to make this easier and your vet can offer advice on this. Once the tick is removed, put it in a small container for disposal and give the area that has been bitten a good wash and a wipe with antiseptic.

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If you live in an area where ticks are common, there are ways to lower the odds of your dog becoming afflicted. You can use treatments that will either repel ticks or kill them if they attach to your dog. These include spot-on treatments, tablets and collars but do speak to your vet to work out which is best for your pet. If you have cats, do not use these treatments on them without speaking to your vet first – the chemicals can be dangerous for felines. When you get back from walking your dog, be sure to check it for ticks by running your hands over its body.

Autumn is a magical time of year to go on adventures with your dog, with the leaves changing colour and the weather getting a little bit cooler. Yet, it’s during autumn and spring that ticks are most common. The Insurance Emporium’s Lifetime policy type can cover you for up to £8,000 worth of Vet’s Fees, which might save you a bit of a bill if your dog catches an infection from a tick. There is a 20% Introductory Discount for new customers and a further 10% Multi-pet Discount available. If you think that would be useful for you, visit The Insurance Emporium to find out more or get a quote!

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