July 13, 2018
Ticks are a subject close to my heart this summer. Having owned cats and dogs for most of my life, this is the first year that I have not only seen ticks first hand but I have also become adept at removing them. Until now, I never fully understood how much of a menace they can be and that little can be done to stop them from attaching themselves to some poor unsuspecting cat or dog.
What are Ticks?
For those of you who have never come across or heard of these creatures before I will give you a brief description of them. Ticks are Arachnids (yes, that means they are related to spiders!). There are a range of different species but the most common in the UK is the sheep tick, Ixodes ricinus. Ticks cannot jump or fly but their hooked front legs make it easy for them to pass from vegetation on to an animals’ body as the animal moves past. Ticks feed on the blood of different animal hosts and there are four stages to their lifecycle. They typically feed once in each stage, attaching to their host for a few days and then dropping to the ground to moult into their next stage.
Ticks start off very small, looking like tiny spiders but as they feed on the blood of animals their blood sacs fill and they can swell to many times their original size.
Ticks can also feed on humans. They can pass diseases such as Lyme Disease on to their animal hosts, hence why you should see a doctor if you get either flu-like symptoms or a circular red rash after you have been bitten.
Tick treatments for cats and dogs
There are several treatments which vets will recommend for use against ticks on your animals – typically spot on or collar treatments. Generally, the treatments work by killing the tick once they have attached. Unfortunately, as we have found out, the treatments are not 100% full proof but they do help. So, if you and your pets live in an area with ticks we recommend visiting your local vet for the best advice on which treatment to use. Treatments are different for cats and dogs, again, you must ask your vet about this.
My experience with ticks
It is common for cats and dogs to pick up ticks as they roam outside in their garden or out on walks. I have recently moved to an area which is surrounded by fields of long vegetation and thus, as soon as the tick season has begun my cats have picked up several ticks on their adventures outside.
On my cats, the neck seems to have been the most common area that ticks attach to. As they are long-haired (Maine Coons) it has meant that we have failed to spot the odd initial culprit until it has begun to feed and balloon (sorry, perhaps a little too graphic).
One piece of advice for you is get a decent tick remover (we recommend the Tick Twister by O'Tom®. When tackling my first tick on Santos this season, I found that the original tick remover we had (unbeknownst to me) had lost its flex (see below) and the result of this was some of the tick being partially left in Santos’s neck. He had a vet visit the next day for his check up after his little fight with a bumble bee so, I cleaned the area up and did not stress too much.
However, in less than 24 hours and despite using antibacterial wipes to clean it, he now had a wound (scabbed over) which had grown from 1-2mm in size to the size of a 5p piece. Where is that camera when you need it? Some 20 mins later at the vets, after tweezers, a very sharp needle and Santos behaving like a saint (thank goodness he is so calm as I can imagine some cats are not as accommodating), the tick was completely out!
For those of you who are unsure on the best way to remove a tick with a tick remover, I have managed to film a short video of removing one from Melly (with our new tick remover). Hopefully it helps…
Occasionally you will come across a tick which is alive in the cat’s fur but not yet attached to them because ticks spend time searching for the best place to attach. In this case, you can either brush the tick out or use a tissue to remove it.
Hoovering your house and checking your animals regularly will also help to pick up on ticks that are still alive or have dropped off of your animals.
One piece of advice to owners is do NOT be afraid to visit your vet for help if you feel unsure or if you have tried to remove a tick but part of it remains in your animal. Believe me, they will rarely charge much for this unless additional treatment is required but it is worth it compared to the consequences of leaving part of the tick in your animal (I stopped reading up on this topic on the internet as it is quite scary).
I by no means claim to be an expert on Ticks but I hope that the tips that I have shared from my experiences this year can help some of you out for when you come across your first tick!
For the rest of the summer, with my new tick remover in hand, we shall work to win the battle against ticks. For now, I am off to check the gang and continue to enjoy the warm weather.
If you have more information or your own experiences with ticks we would love to hear them so feel free to leave a comment below!
With Tigga love,
Sam and the Tick-free Maine Coons Santos, Belle and Melly x