How to spot tick bites in your pets

How to spot tick bites in your pets how to prevent them

What are the symptoms of a tick bite and how do you remove ticks?

Ticks are tiny parasites that attach themselves to dogs, cats and humans. The symptoms you’ll need to be aware of when looking for a tick bite are:

  • Redness or what looks like a rash on the surface of the skin
  • Blisters
  • Swelling
  • Breathing difficulties

With the right treatment, ticks can be nothing more than a mild nuisance, almost like head lice on a person. But in some cases, ticks can prove to be a serious threat to cats and dogs.

What are ticks?

Ticks are arachnids similar to spiders. They have eight legs and range in size from one millimetre to one centimetre. Ticks hatch from eggs and become larvae, develop into nymphs, and then finally into adults. At each stage, they feed on an animal (their host) to develop into the next stage. The tick larvae like to feed on birds and rodents. However, the older stages prefer larger mammals, like dogs, cats, and also humans.

Will ticks harm my dog or cat?

Most tick bites will not harm your pet. However, occasionally bacterial infections can develop, even abscesses at the site of a bite. Therefore, it is very important to regularly inspect your pet for signs of ticks especially if you have walked in areas considered high risk. In the UK, ticks also transmit Lyme disease which is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Most dogs that are bitten by an infected tick do not always show signs of being unwell. This is because many dogs in the UK have blood that contains antibodies against the bacterium.

However, some dogs who have been bitten by an infected tick may become ill, several weeks even months later. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include painful swollen joints, fever and lethargy. It can also go on to cause glomerulonephritis which affects the kidneys. Lyme disease also affects humans and develops as a type of flu with a ‘bulls-eye’ rash around the area of the bite. It can affect the heart rhythm, create neurological problems and arthritis.

Babesiosis is another disease caused by tick bites. It can damage and destruct red blood cells and cause severe anaemia in dogs and in serious cases bleeding disorders and organ failure. Until fairly recently, Babesiosis was a disease that was carried into the UK by dogs that had travelled to or from the continent, it now appears to have become native especially in the South of England.

What should you do if your pet has ticks?

The easiest way to remove a tick is by using a special tick remover and twisting it off. Removing the tick with the appropriate tool will reduce the risk of infection which can be caused if the tick’s mouthparts remain attached. Never remove a tick by squeezing or pulling, or by being burnt off. If you are worried about your pet book an appointment with your local vet.

How to remove ticks from cats and dogs

How to remove ticks

It's important to treat tick bites promptly and safely.

If you’ve spotted a tick on your cat or dog, then you can treat this from your own home with a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool.

If you can keep your cat or dog still, then you should be able to remove the tick without the need for a vet. You will need to use fine-point tweezers rather than large and blunt household tweezers in order to avoid squashing the tick and possibly causing infection in your pet. You can remove a tick on your cat or dog by following these steps:

  • Firstly, locate the tick.
  • Spread your dog or cat’s fur in order to get a good look at the tick.
  • Pinch the tick with either your tweezers or tick removal tool.
  • Slowly ease the tick from your pet. Do not pull the tick from the skin.
  • After the tick has been successfully removed, dispose of it safely.
  • Monitor you pet’s behaviour in the following days to see if they have any difficulty breathing, loss of appetite or swollen or stiff joints.

When removing ticks, it’s important that you do not:

  • Use your fingers to pull ticks out.
  • Remove the ticks aggressively.
  • Squash the tick.
  • Use soap, peroxides or Vaseline to suffocate the tick.
  • Use any kind of naked flame near your dog or cat’s skin.

If you are wary of tackling a tick bite, make sure that you contact your vet as soon as possible. With petGuard, we provide free 24/7 video consultation with a vet who will be able to assist you with any tick trouble.

How to check for ticks in cats and dogs

Any time that your cat or dog is exploring outdoors, you should check them for ticks. This doesn’t need to be overly intrusive and you can give them a quick check over by checking the following areas:

  • Under their front legs
  • Between their back legs
  • Between their paws
  • Around their tail
  • Around the eye area
  • In and around their ears

How can you avoid tick bites in cats and dogs?

Always check your pet's feet, groin and armpits. Cats are good at removing them on their own by constant grooming. However, if your cat does get ticks, they will most likely be found on areas of the body they cannot clean easily, which is generally the head.

There are preventative tick treatments available that repel ticks and kill them once they have attached. Ticks infected with Lyme disease do not spread the infection unless they have been on the host for over 48 hours. Effective tick treatments kill the ticks far quicker so they are killed before they transmit the disease. Many of the tick treatments also prevent flea and other parasite infestations. So it is really important to ensure your pet is regularly given this treatment to prevent tick and parasite infestation.