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Cumbrian vet Helen Trory writes exclusively every month for cumbria24.com. Helen, who works as a small animal vet in Appleby-in-Westmorland will be giving you tips and advice throughout the year to ensure your pets stay happy, healthy and safe. And this column has a seasonal message with Tick Awareness Week.
Old Hall Veterinary Centre Appleby, which recently become a pet only practice, has decided to try and raise awareness about ticks for people living in and visitors to the Eden Valley, writes Helen Trory. This campaign will highlight Tick Bite Prevention Week 2012 which is running from 26th of March to the 1st of April. The practice putting up posters in the Tourist Information Centre and is hoping to ensure that pet owners will be better informed about the tick products available and how to spot and remove ticks without causing any problems.
Ticks are arthropods and have eight legs similar to spiders. They are parasites, meaning they feed on the blood of a host (animal or human). They are usually found in long grass, leaf litter and on low plants or shrubs where they wait for a host. Ticks don't jump or fly they climb onto a host as it brushes past and then looks for a safe place to attach and feed. There are over 20 species of tick in the UK and over 800 worldwide. The most commonly seen in the UK is the sheep tick Ixodes ricinus.
Their life-cycle is temperature-dependent, so whilst they are found all year round, their numbers tend to increase between March and October.
Special mouth parts and the specialised saliva allow the tick to fix securely without the host feeling it and they tend to stay attached for a few days at a time.
Most people only become aware of a tick on their pet once it has been attached for a few days and it is engorged with blood. By the time they are noticed they can be as large as a coffee bean and vary in colour from pale pink to blue grey and some species of tick are even dark red or purple. Before they have fed the ticks are flat and range from 0.5 mm to 3 mm in length.
Ticks can cause problems for pets due to local irritation and local infections but they also carry some tick borne diseases that can be transmitted to humans or pets when the tick is feeding. These diseases include Borreliosis (Lyme disease) Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Bartonellosis and the Louping Ill Virus and they are all present in ticks in the UK and Ireland.
Not every tick is infected with these diseases and not every bite will result in disease transmission but generally the longer the tick is attached and feeding the more likely it is that infection will result.
It is important to check your pet regularly for ticks. If you find ticks and want to remove them from your pet you must make sure that you remove the mouth parts of the tick. There are various tick removers available that can make this process a little easier, ask your vet for advice if you are unsure.
Various licensed products are available for tick prevention. They are usually in a spot on or spray form or in a chemically treated collar. Not all products are suitable for all animals so it is important to get advice from your vets so they can be used correctly. Cases of poisoning have occurred when the wrong products have been used on the wrong species. Use caution if buying over the counter products always read the manufactured instructions very carefully.
Please note that most available products do not stop the ticks from attaching to the animal, they just cause them to die and drop off quicker than they would do without the product thus limiting the time available to transmit disease and to break the life cycle of the tick. Some available products do contain a repellent so ask your vet for details.
Pictured Helen with her own dogs, who have tick repellent to protect them.
Helen Trory BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS Old Hall Veterinary Centre Ltd Appleby for more information about Old Hall Vet click here