Protecting your pets against ticks and pests
It’s not just humans who prefer to spend more time outside when summer arrives! Whether it’s our dogs demanding longer walks, or our cats curling up in the shadiest spots in our gardens, our pets embrace the great outdoors just as much as we do.
Yet, the summer brings with it new dangers all pet owners need to be aware of. One of the greatest risks to our furry friends are ticks; spider-like in shape, these blood-sucking parasites are most active from spring to autumn and are found in grassland, woodland and heath areas. As Blue Cross notes, they can also lurk in gardens, particularly those in areas with lots of wildlife.
Ticks attach themselves to animals by climbing or dropping onto their coat. Both fleas and ticks can cause nasty tapeworm infections and spread Lyme Disease, which can be potentially fatal for animals and humans. Public Health England (PHE) figures cited by Lyme Disease Action show that cases of the disease jumped by 35% during the final few months of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016.
Millions of pets and owners at risk
A survey conducted by The Vet at the start of 2018, reported by Dogs Monthly, uncovered that 14% of dog owners don’t treat their dogs for flea or tick infestations. This equates to around 1.2 million of the estimated 8.5 million pooches in the UK, and is despite the fact that the diseases spread by these creepy crawlies could be fatal.
So with all this in mind, here are our top tips for identifying, removing and preventing ticks from pestering your pet:
- Ticks come in various sizes but have the appearance of small pebbles attached to your cat or dog’s skin. They vary in colour (including dark grey, pale brown and cream) and tend to attach to less hairy areas, such as the underbelly, face, neck and inside the legs.
- You’ll be able to find a tick by giving your dog or cat a quick pat down. Do this every day, especially after walks and after your pet has been in long grass.
- Ticks should be removed as soon as possible.
- Do NOT pull or scrape the tick off, as its probe can get stuck under the skin and cause infections and problems.
- Do NOT use your bare hands or fingers to remove the tick as infections and diseases can spread this way.
- The simplest way to remove a tick is with an inexpensive, claw-shaped tool known as a ‘tick twister,’ which can be bought from a vet or general retailer. This tool slots between the tick’s body and your pet’s skin, allowing you to twist it out in one piece.
- If you don’t have a special tool to hand, remove the tick using a blunt pair of needle-nose tweezers, making sure you hold the tick as close as you can to the skin. Don’t squeeze or grip the body as it can kill the tick and force the head to break off under the skin. Instead, gently, and with constant pressure, twist and remove the tick from the skin.
- Steer clear of high-risk areas for Lyme disease.
- Regularly hoover and clean your home and wash all animal bedding at a high temperature.
- Keep your garden tidy, pruning bushes and shrubs and clearing away fallen leaves, which are ideal habitats for pests.
- Dead animals often carry parasites which can be passed on to your pet, so avoid them if you encounter one during a walk.
More pet pests
Animals are often allergic to human mosquito repellents so make sure you pick up the pet version for your pooch. Dawn and dusk are the peak hours when mosquitoes appear so be extra vigilant if you’re out walking your pet at these times. Also, avoid stagnant water in ponds as mosquitoes tend to use it as their breeding ground.
Although they may seem harmless enough, slugs and snails carry the larvae of the lungworm parasite, which can prove fatal for dogs. While dogs don’t usually eat slugs or snails on purpose, they could gobble them up accidentally if they’ve congregated around a water or food bowl. If your pooch starts coughing, fitting, losing weight or having diarrhoea they could well have ingested a slug. Also be aware that slug pellets used by gardeners or farmers can be harmful to dogs, so stay alert especially when walking in the countryside.
Scratching is a key sign your pet has picked up fleas – you might even be able to see them living in your pet’s fur. Did you know that 99% of fleas live in the environment and not actually on your dog or cat? That’s why it’s so important to keep your house as clean as possible. They can cause upset and irritation to your furry friend, so it’s best to get them treated as soon as possible.
A quick check every day can help prevent your pets from falling victim to one of these pesky pests! For added protection, get a quick and easy quote for pet insurance with Computerquote today.