July 18, 2013

Ticks are an increasingly common problem.

When I joined Donaldson’s Vets back in 1995, the only ticks we ever saw were on dogs which had been on holiday with their owners to the Lake District or the west coast of Scotland but increasingly, we are seeing animals which have picked up ticks locally.

We cannot be sure why there has been such an increase in the tick numbers in this area but it is known that ticks like warm wet weather and so it is likely that the recent damp summers have had an impact. There are more sheep kept in the area than used to be the case and as ticks prefer sheep to cattle skin, that too has probably impacted on their numbers.

A tick begins its life as an egg. When the egg hatches, a six-legged larva emerges. Aside from its missing set of legs, the larva looks a lot like an adult tick. Its first host is usually a small mammal and it has to find a host in order to grow. After biting into the host’s skin, it feeds by sucking blood; then the larva drops to the ground to digest its food and begin to grow. After one to three weeks, the larva moults and becomes a nymph.

A tick nymph has eight legs and looks like a smaller version of an adult tick. It has to find another meal, usually from another small mammal, bird or lizard, before it can moult again. Once the nymph is finished eating, it drops to the ground to continue its development. After its final moult, the tick is an adult.

Lyme disease can be transmitted by ticks. The symptoms associated with Lyme Disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and depression. Left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nervous system. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early. Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to more serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat.

Ticks may be very carefully removed by a Vet but great care must be taken not to leave the tick’s mouth parts behind or these can form an abscess.

There are a number of products the Vet can prescribe which will repel ticks or kill them after they attach so contact the surgery for further details.

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