Guide: tick week (25-29/04)
Ticks, you may have heard of these nasty critters. They prefer to live in green areas, such as forests, gardens, dunes, parks, meadows, etc. They are present pretty much all year round but are only really active between March and October or when the temperature goes above 10 degrees. In other words, the insects are at work again and that's why we would like to give you some tips because a tick bite is not always without consequences!
What is a tick?
A tick is a small parasite, which looks more like a "blood sucking" spider. They crawl into the fur of your four-legged friend, looking for a place where they can nest and then feed on the blood of their host. They often attach themselves to the neck, ears, head or legs of your dog but they can of course be somewhere else (so always do a thorough check). A tick is initially not much bigger than 1-3 mm but once they have filled up with blood they can swell to 1 cm.
Can you get sick from a tick bite?
A tick bite is often harmless and painless. It only becomes dangerous if that tick is infected with a bacterium that can make your pet sick. The tick first looks for a good spot on the skin and before sucking blood, it injects a kind of liquid into its victim. This injection can cause certain diseases to enter the bloodstream.
A tick can therefore certainly be dangerous for your dog but also for yourself as well as for other (domestic) animals.
Ticks can transmit several diseases that can make your pets sick. One of the most well-known diseases that can be transmitted is Lyme disease.
The most well-known disease is Lyme disease, 1 in 5 ticks is infected with this bacteria. As soon as a tick that is infected with this bacterium settles in the skin and reaches the bloodstream, you can become infected.
TIP: Check your dog daily for ticks, that way you are there as soon as possible to remove the tick and reduce the risk of infection.
Is the tick already there for a longer period of time? Then pay attention to the following symptoms:
- Joint inflammation that manifests itself in sudden lameness and pain in the joints
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
Notice any of the following symptoms after a tick bite? If so, be sure to visit your veterinarian. Lyme disease is curable provided you treat your dog properly with a course of antibiotics in the first week of the illness.
Lyme disease is by no means the only disease they can transmit
Lesser known disease but no less important to be aware of is Babesiosis disease. This disease is less common because it can only be transmitted by 2 species of ticks, one of which is the Dermacentor reticulatus. The Dermacentor reticulatus is a very nasty animal, it is often called the "dog killer" because dogs that are infected with it and not treated, almost all die from it.
Once the tick has attached itself, it takes about 3 days for the bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Is the tick there for a longer period anyway? Then watch for the following symptoms:
- Itching and irritation where the tick is located
- Inflammation of the skin
- Little or no appetite
- Pale or yellow mucous membranes
- Red discolored urine
- Dog can also go into shock
If you notice any of these symptoms, get to the vet quickly. Babiosis is not always fatal but you must be quick to start treatment. It often also leaves chronic symptoms such as increased heart rate, swollen lymph nodes, anemia, ...
How to prevent such a tick bite
Check your pet
After every walk or playtime in the garden it is best to give your dog a firm check. This over all his body but pay extra attention around the ears, head, neck, under the tail, between the legs and toes.
TIP: If you're lucky and the tick hasn't attached itself to the skin yet, you can go over your dog's coat with a clothes roller and the ticks will stick to it. Pretty handy!
Prevention is better than cure
There are already several ways to protect your pet from ticks, from pipettes to sprays, bands and medication. Check with your veterinarian to see which remedy is best for your pet, and that way make sure you're ahead of the scary critters and their ilk! But beware! No product works 100%. So keep checking your pet for ticks and remove them as soon as possible.
Still bitten by a tick?
If the tick has nevertheless attached itself to the skin, then the best way to remove it is with a special tick remover. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and carefully twist or slide it out of the skin. This loosens the mouth of the tick, allowing you to remove it easily. Still, don't pull too hard on the body, or the head of the tick will remain attached. Contrary to what many people think, this is not such a big problem. The head can be compared to a splinter, which will eventually fall out on its own. But keep an eye on the place, so that no infection occurs.
TIP: Definitely don't believe the fables! Do not use alcohol, heat or soap before removing a tick. The tick can then spit out its stomach contents into your dog's bloodstream and transmit disease more quickly that way.